Undergraduate School: Bryn Mawr College
Undergraduate Major: Growth and Structure of Cities Program, (aka Urban Anthropology/Studies)
Hometown: Dallas, TX
Status: Part-Time Evening, formerly Full-Time Day
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
12/19/12 - It is the end of this journey. I am not the same person that walked into law school in the fall of 2009. I still believe this is not for everyone - but for me it was definitely the best choice.
I gained the practical skills of lawyering through the Public Interest Law Fellowship and the Law Clinic. I’ve counseled clients and have assisted mothers and students with gaining new opportunities in life. I have also met extraordinary people in law school, those with nerves of steel, determined young men and women that far surpass where I was in life fifteen years ago. I have learned how to be driven, disciplined and regardless of the circumstances, take strength from the positive in life even when there seems to be nothing to hold on to.
Going to law school was the best decision I ever made. There are many warnings at every turn about the impossibility of finding a job in this market – well, lawyer or not, it will still be difficult. I will always prefer to be an attorney looking for a job than a non-attorney looking for a job. I am thankful for the people in life who encouraged me at every turn and stood by me even as I turned into a law-school diva. I am especially grateful to my son Tony who tried his best and never complained about what a mother should or should not be. A special thanks to my boyfriend Bob for keeping me centered and focused. Lastly there is no one like my best friend Christina who made me feel like a true princess on graduation day!
12/12/12 - On Graduation Day, I felt that I was awarded a clean slate, a future where looking back would only be for reference. I can’t say that my grades reflected my true potential or that I did everything in law school I had set out to do. I was far from that. I know that some of my professors expected more, and I only gave the minimum. But along the way I knew that as a mother who lived alone with her son and removed from friends and family, balance was more important than any extraordinary accolade I could have ever achieved. The end of the journey is the highest achievement for many of us, and I doubt that for any of us it did not come without a struggle. And today, embraced by the warmth of my loved ones, I learned to never, ever set out on this kind of venture alone - ever.
You cannot sacrifice the livelihood of your children, family or important relationships for this venture. I have struggled to achieve balance and always will. But I’ve learned there are some things that should never be lost along the way. At the beginning of this journey I was told to get rid of the unimportant relationships, but for me, that meant to get rid of the unimportant baggage we carry around daily. That didn’t happen until today. We have all had struggles but as I’ve been told, there will come a day where you will have exhausted the story, you will find that you no longer need to tell anyone about the devastation and horror that once dominated your life. That day is today.
During the graduation ceremony I could not stop smiling - to think that only eight years ago, it was a small blinking light that flickered just enough to give me perspective in my darkest moments. Now I can say this degree is my own torch of victory. Nothing and no one can ever put it out.
11/28/12 - One final down and it’s all over! Just like that. This is truly a whirlwind moment, without celebration. Sometimes I wish I could return to those high school days where the last day of exams and school ended with rolls of toilet paper and broken eggs smashed against the school building. Well, this is law school. And law school is well, a bit more refined, quiet and there is really nothing to get overly excited about until you PASS THE BAR. Yes, this best moment of my life is blessed with a bit of edginess. My BarBri books have arrived and soon my new shelves and desk that I will have to get very comfortable in for the next two months.
What I will find exhilarating is December 14th, the day I finally graduate from law school which will definitely be one of the greatest days of my life. I think of how my life would have been different now had I decided to listen to everyone else instead of my inner dreams. Several people encouraged me to be a mother instead of a law school student, or to avoid law school because I would end up in debt. Well, here’s to you! There are many wonderful things I have lost along the way but I have also gained many beautiful experiences in return!
Many of these experiences have completely changed me. I have never thought of lawyers as being activists for social justice, but now I know - activism does not mean that you have to protest and march at every turn, but in the end someone has to sit down, research and put forth the best arguments. I will never regret that my law school career has given me the chance to work for the good of those who are voiceless. I can’t wait for my J.D.!!!
11/14/12 - Two more weeks and I will be DONE!!! At the close of my law school days I will face the one exam I have been dreading the past three years, Evidence. To wrap things up, I have my last LARW paper due tomorrow, a divorce prove-up for Law Clinic on Monday, an in-class project for Electronic Research Practicum on Wednesday and a few more classes to drudge through. While I’ve reduced work to only two half-days a week and hence reduced my stress level significantly, there is nothing like an Evidence exam to ruin the anticlimactic moment of the last day of classes.
I finally achieved my victory score on my last Multistate Performance Test and feel that at least I will walk in to BarBri Bar Prep ahead of the game. Bar prep begins the day after Christmas, so whether I like it or not I will have about a week and a half “off” after graduation. Of course, being “off” in the law student sense does not mean splendid days full of nothingness. BarBri actually will give me plenty to do on its online component.
Have I mentioned BarBri enough times? Some of you might wonder why I have chosen BarBri and I guess I have succumbed to the belief that if you have an ounce of doubt that you might not be one of the 90.7% of TexWes students who pass the bar, then stick to BarBri.
10/31/12 - After flatlining on my progress in my Preparing for the Bar class, I finally received a near perfect score on my Texas Essays. I had to take two Texas Essay exams back to back, one based on Secured Transactions and the other on Texas Marital Property Law. I took both of these courses my 2L year but even with that, Secured Transactions was still a monster to get through. I remember my final for that class and I never wanted to see a problem with so many creditors trying to take a hold of the remaining assets of a debtor. I really thought my practice exam for this subject was going to end up being an epic fail, but in hindsight I realize that I held on to some of the key points I learned in class: when you think you know nothing you can always at the least organize and base your answer on what makes common sense. Preparing for the Bar has been a challenge, and although it is not a required class, I feel the burden of the Bar exam won’t be as heavy.
Last week I also received a bar grant that will pay off the remaining balance toward my BarBri Bar Exam prep course. I really did not have too many back-up plans to pay for the prep course (which costs a few thousand dollars). Now I won’t have to spend precious study time working AND I saved myself several months’ worth of rent with this grant. I can’t be thankful enough!
I managed to send off my Bar Exam Application on the day it was due and a few days ago I began dreaming of the test - or rather the nightmares have begun. If you are a worry wart like me, I really suggest that you invest your time in the school’s Preparing for the Bar course. Even if you are in the top percentile, there is nothing like getting accustomed to the MPT, P&E and Texas Essays that may not be covered in depth in any of the commercial bar courses.
10/17/12 - The reality of the Bar exam is firmly rooted in that awful place where anxiety, fear, hope, and panic meet and mix all at once. It is four months away, a complete eternity, but nothing else seems to plague my mind. It doesn’t help that tonight I have two practice exams for the Texas essay portion of the bar.
That is right - tonight, whether I’m up to it or not, and it doesn’t matter that I have been at school since 8:00 AM. My Thursdays are 12 hours long, and honestly, I did not think I could push through it my last semester here. But I suppose it is great practice for the Bar to do something you might not ever be comfortable doing.
A few days ago, one of my professors reminded me that it is also time for the post-J.D. job search. I didn’t notice that I had left that on the backburner with all the work and volunteering I have been doing lately. I can keep my current job where I am very comfortable, but I do know that because it is non-profit, I probably would not be able to receive a “lawyer-like” salary once I get licensed, because there is not even a salary available for me. There are post-grad fellowships I can apply to while waiting for results, so even though I love my current job, I have to begin the application process before I am completely out of options.
I have met quite a few future law students at my current job and it seems like fate that we have been brought together. I have been placed in charge of training a new employee and it has been a blessing realizing that I in turn, can stop feeling so guilty about not being able to help clients five days a week, especially because my clients happen to be teenaged students and college kids. I’ve decided to reduce work to about two days a week and also slowed down the work I’ve been doing as a research assistant. I think it is deeply ingrained in the minds of many law students that anything, everything is possible and missed opportunities get happen at every turn. But as my professor reminded me, I will be of no use to anyone in the future if I don’t reel myself back in to the task at hand - finishing this last semester that is soon to end.
10/3/12 - While I am counting down for law school, I am looking forward to seeing my 100th client at work. I am almost at the halfway point and it is always at that point that things change. I decided to cut just a few hours a work, which means I will be seeing fewer clients. However, there is always the need to do research in this new area of immigration law.
Deferred Action is a new immigration process, roughly under two months old, and even though decisions are non-appealable, it deeply relies on case law for many points. Before I start researching any point of contention on the application, I look to everything I have learned in Evidence, Criminal Procedure, Constitutional Law, and even Family Law. The sufficiency of documentary evidence calls into question everything from my Evidence class to Criminal Law. I have also had to refer to what I learned in Professional Ethics, especially about attorney-client privilege. In the immigrant community, it is not uncommon that the entire family will want to be in your office. All of this is somewhat daunting and of course, stressful.
I will not let the stress however ruin the last semester of law school. I only have one exam after all, and my Prepping for the Bar class I am sure will be my lifesaver for the ultimate last exam, the Bar Exam.
10/1/12 - It will be the last time I will use the halfway point of the semester as a time marker. The imaginary outlines and projects that we imagine we will get to one day have to slowly start to appear on paper. I have one exam this semester, the beast of a multiple choice exam - not exactly my strength, but in the end it will be wonderful practice for the Bar exam. I am counting the last four papers I will have to write for LARW III, a final project for my Electronic Research Practicum, and a divorce prove-up for Law Clinic that I hope will happen before my bar prep adventure.
My Preparing for the Bar class has been the most intensive one this semester - not exactly something I expected from a course I was only auditing. We have practice exams every other week as well as Saturday classes. As of tonight, I will have two MPT and two Texas essays completed. The MPT is the Multistate Performance Test that all bar testers must take.
You are given a legal task to complete, usually a memo, a file containing deposition transcripts, memos or notes, and finally a library containing relevant statutes and case law. In just 90 minutes you are asked to complete what probably took you half a semester as a 1L. Honestly, it is not that bad, but you don’t have even a second to let anxiety or fear settle in. My results have been on track, and it is this section, as well as the Texas essays, that I am hoping will get me the maximum points. Every student should take this class. I don’t think two months will ever be enough to study for the Bar unless you really think 12 hour study days are fun.
9/6/12 - The kids next door
You can’t tell who they are. They are who the government terms, “Childhood Arrivals.” As I approached a church where these young students were lined up, I was in a state of shock. The line wrapped around the building and when I entered, the church meeting center was already full.
I came to assist in helping these students apply for a humanitarian immigration application called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (D.A.C.A.). Although Congress was unable to pass the DREAM act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act) President Obama announced DACA on June 15, 2012 that incorporates some of the criteria outlined in the original DREAM Act. As a legal intern for a non-profit assisting these student applicants, I am using several of the skills I learned in legal research as a 1L and have found that my experience in Law Clinic has greatly prepared me for being comfortable with clients.
Now as a 3.5L in my last semester of law school I seem to have come full circle from being a teacher who taught students and now to the legal intern assisting students secure a future beyond high school and college. I am grateful that my law school education has allowed me to get up every morning excited and eager to go to work. That has been the prize for me all along- to be in a position where I can use the law to do something I absolutely enjoy!
7/25/12 - It seems like the summer I envisioned was going to be one filled with sappy telenovelas and the chance to brush up on my Spanish. Instead, I had to do it the hard way. After finishing translating a voluminous divorce decree for the Law Clinic I realized how much I had missed out on learning academic Spanish. Not only did I miss out on that, but it seems like the law has missed out on English class and holds no reverence for grammar rules and sentence construction. When sentences in a legal document run-on in circular fragments, I imagine that the sole purpose of a divorce decree is to ensure that future lawyers like me are guaranteed jobs trying to sort out what exactly is being written. (Yes, that was a long sentence.) I am not sure that my translation, or anyone else’s, will ensure that the layperson understands what exactly is being ordered in a divorce decree. I am sure that several people out there need their documents translated into “normal” English. I just hope to outsource next time.
I have also spent my summer nights researching local immigration laws around the country. I felt like an excited little girl when one of my favorite professors opened up the opportunity to be a Research Assistant. Of course! YEEEESSSS!! For me, this is a chance to learn everything about immigration law I might never have learned in class. For now, I am researching local ordinances, resolutions and policies that affect immigrants. Many times I’ve hit a brick wall when researching but as I have learned, there is always a way to get information you think you can’t ever find.
Meanwhile some of my friends faced the Bar exam. I have that funny feeling already - at times I want to run away and hide from the reality of spending two months of 10-12 hour days prepping for the Bar. I am not sure I can sit down that long and know that I will get terribly bored. Out of compassion, I guess I felt nervous the past three days, nervous that I would hear some sad news that someone just ran out of the exam room. But that didn’t happen and nearly everyone seems dumbstruck at the thought of having absolutely no studying to do. What an absolutely lovely feeling I hope to feel one day! At least for a while.
I have about one more week until I head back to Dallas!!! Now, today I got stuck on I-75, one the most congested freeways and I ventured onto my secret shortcut – well, it seems like it’s a secret no more. Although it’s a nightmare, I have grown tired of being secluded in law school study mode. 4L is plenty! Not having a social life has had its day!
6/27/12 - It all happened this summer at TexWes. I have gone through four clients at the Law Clinic, seen the Supreme Court uphold and reject some parts of Arizona’s SB1070 and the Health Care Act, and now have the possibility of becoming an Aggie. Constitutional law has seen some changes in how the federal taxing power can be used but holds fast to the federal government’s supremacy over most of immigration law. There has been a wide political gulf that seems to have just deepened but depending on which side you are on, there have been some pleasant surprises. For me that was the savvy use of prosecutorial discretion to give undocumented students “deferred action” as a defense against deportation. This indeed is dream come true for thousands of DREAMers, or those young courageous students who find themselves without legal status and now champion the DREAM Act. It made me remember that I too, used to be one of those students who protested, participated in walk-outs and marches to the capital in the 1990’s. As part of another generation, I now feel that all my political activism was not in vain. Soon, I will be the attorney assisting DREAMers obtaining the deferred action relief!
The fall semester brings great news. I finally secured a great place to live in Kessler Park, a small neighborhood near the Bishop Arts District in Dallas near several of my friends! There is a period in your law school career where you really need to escape the ascetic lifestyle of the law student. I am near that end, at that point where I am done ignoring everyone I love! The great thing is that the love of my life, my dog Spike, will be able to live with us and will have his own little dog park. Dogs - they do that to you…
Next week I have a Mock Trial in Law Clinic to wrap up the semester and the week after that just one exam! And in case you haven’t heard, TexWes is potentially becoming “Texas A&M University Law School at Texas Wesleyan University.” Yes, imagine that, “A&M Law at TexWes.” Whatever the name, I am sure this law school will have more resources and opportunities available for the next generation of law students.
**A Note on the Letter of Intent between Texas A&M and Texas Wesleyan - Legal Disclaimer**
5/30/12 - Yesterday, I attended a training session for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status sponsored by Catholic Charities of Dallas. What a nice surprise to see several current Texas Wesleyan students as well as alumni in attendance! News has spread like wildfire about the up and coming Immigration Clinic here at TexWes (maybe someone out there is reading my blog!). It seems like everyone wants to get involved in what will be the only clinic of its type in North Texas. Although I will not be here for Spring 2013, I urge you to take advantage of this new opportunity!
It has been only one week since I visited my alma mater, Bryn Mawr, for my 15 year reunion and I had to chance to catch up with almost my entire frosh (freshman) hall group. It was interesting to see how many of my college friends are into the early years of motherhood, and of course I bragged that I only had four years left ‘til freedom! I know motherhood never ends and I’ll feel a little lonely, but at least I won’t have to worry about dinner. I met several attorneys there, and of course hope some of these connections will help me in my future job search. There is nothing like stepping into the past of your college days with unlimited beer and wine and lifetime friends.
Well, soon I will be a TexWes alumna and now I am spending some of my remaining time at the Law Clinic. I am doing mostly family law (divorces, of course) and I love it here! I have my first client interviews next week and can’t wait for the coveted Third-Year Bar card. Some students already have appearances at court scheduled, but I haven’t had that luck yet. I do twelve office hours per week in addition to classes twice a week. It seems like Marital Property and Family Law really paid off, so I feel I am right where I belong!
My search for a home in Dallas is underway and Tony, my son, is not half as excited as I am. We moved here from Dallas in 2009 and he left his old school friends behind. Now, three years later he has to face the same ordeal. I know he’s a little blue but for a teen this is a very big deal. I know he’ll feel better once he realizes he’s closer to family and reestablishes old friendships.
5/9/12 - Two exams and one paper over with, and on to a two-week vacation. Wills & Estates put me through more torture than expected. I’ve taken a class with this professor before and did really well. I expected this exam to be similar in difficulty, but sometimes, after feeling the floor under you slowly fall you, just resign yourself to hoping you sit on the average part of the curve.
First Amendment on the other hand was all about memorization. I dreamt about false statements of fact, fighting words, public forums and strict scrutiny for days! I don’t think I have ever memorized more rules in any of my other classes. So when our exam proctor gave us the shocking news that we were only allowed ONE sheet of scratch paper for our exam, it wasn’t so bad because I had practiced to write a one-page checklist before I even read my exam. As ridiculous as it sounds, I actually enjoyed my First Amendment exam, especially because it was possible to finish it in three hours. I wonder if I will even retain any of this in two weeks when summer session begins…
Two weeks of blissful nothingness and mindless telenovelas and I will get back to work with Law Clinic and a glamorous course in Payment Systems. As much as I looked forward to the end of exams, I can’t wait for Law Clinic to begin. In the Clinic I’ll have to chance to get more experience with family law, and hopefully get to chance to get some face time in the county courthouse. The Clinic requires 12 hours of office hours in the summer, including three hours of class each week. For those of you interested in clinical programs, you might want to note that the school also has a Criminal Prosecution Clinic and soon will offer an Immigration Clinic in the Spring of 2013. As you can see, Texas Wesleyan never ceases to find new ways to give its students real-world experience and the opportunity to serve the community.
The excitement of being in the penultimate semester of law school is something I can’t exactly contain. I haven’t felt this way in a very long time. It has been challenging, and definitely not a journey you should undertake on a whim. This is not for everybody. The falling numbers of students taking the LSAT and the shrinking market for attorneys should temper my feelings, but it should not stop those who are serious about serving their communities. Law school has humbled me, but it also has encouraged me to step ahead and do something about the things I believe are going wrong in society. I definitely feel the start of something new in my life and I can’t wait to get there!
4/25/12 - Sometimes writing is effortless. You get a sudden wind of an idea and it flows furiously and fervently. It doesn’t make sense to stop when the words guide you to a peaceful resolution of whatever plagued your mind. It might be a riddle, a convoluted way of hiding a political rant, or just letters spelling vanity. But I can’t even begin. Ideas, when relegated to this monster thing called organization, framework, or structure just kind of flounder. So here I find myself, after having worked months on researching, outlining a draft, typing and it just won’t frame itself around Part I, Part II, III, and conclusion. WHY!!!
Information overload, as some people call it, is real. As much as computers have limited gigabytes, I think our brains run out of filing bins to store new memory files. My undergrad years were spent waiting to get in front of the computer screen, watching my words form ideas and sentences that were enjoyable and soft, like poetry or the delightful entry into the beginning of a children’s storybook. I still remember writing in a time without these monsters named Google, Facebook, and Yahoo or even interminable databases. So ideas were fine and clear, authentic, and even easy to write about. But now, the brain overloads, the file spaces close and I wonder if legal writing will ever, ever cross over into the realm of something close to creative and even enjoyable. I imagine that for some very talented writers, the legal argument is fine and clear, does flow fervently and even passionately. There is a sense of justice and pride that comes with the last punctuation mark and final cite check. I need to find that place soon. Now.
So I revert to the pen and paper and wow, ideas slow down with the restraint of speed and limited space. My brain has fallen out of love with the computer screen. On to the paper - I am passionate about ensuring that domestic violence victims from other countries have the ability to make asylum claims like other persecuted victims around the world. Don’t be so shocked, the numbers that actually escape are very, very low. This is a relatively new area of the law, and difficult one, especially since I never even took an immigration law class, and as it stands now, never will. It’s time to transpose the ink to the screen.
4/11/12 - This semester is slowly unwinding and I am almost set on confirming that it is going to be the second to last semester. After reconfiguring financial aid and living expenses, the end of law school begins to loom near. I’ve set my mind on it - to get this law school chapter on its final page and let the rest of my life unwind!
But as this semester still unwinds, I finally got called on in First Amendment, thinking I was somehow going to hide behind the veil of my hair forever unnoticed. Prof. Rambo is known to challenge you, so I glance at my brief and then began the silent panic as my fingers attempt to find the case in vain. So then the brain just relies on memory and that is when you discover these things called photographic memory and tunnel vision.
I remember at Bryn Mawr, the Socratic method consisted of free-reign dialogue, and I always spoke willfully and fearlessly. Professors “facilitated” our discussions which mostly meant that, unless we obsessed about tangential nothingness, the class was ours. You can’t really learn about the law this way (well, I can’t), so having the professor gauge every inch of your understanding, and questioning and challenging you to broader frameworks well that makes you sweat a little. Don’t forget to do a reverse analysis, the professor says. Say what? I trust the justices of our Supreme Court to get it right - I really never expected them to cite to incorrect cases with incorrect tests. But it’s over and next time it won’t be so bad.
My son needed his mother to be a bit more decisive, so yesterday I finally declared that we are indeed headed back to Dallas. He is touring at Dallas’ New Tech High School. Just because I know most of the administrators does not make me think he’s automatically in. They would like to see some enthusiasm for New Tech. In my experience, teenage enthusiasm centers on social media and buying musical equipment to fulfill their hip-hop dreams. So before I dropped him off, I gave a rare lecture about privilege, opportunity, social injustices, and the most important topic of the day - financial aid. Sarcasm. Why pay for college when you can get it for free? Dream.
I was raised to be a free-thinker by my father in contravention of our cultural norms. I was left alone to decide what middle and high school I went to, my parents had no clue what colleges I had applied to, and yet here I am - almost finished with law school, intact and unscathed. My son has challenged me, but I’m not one for Socratic motherhood.
3/28/12 - It’s almost time for Barrister’s Ball!! For those of you unaware of the tradition, you can think of the Ball as simply Law School Prom, without the drama. I have never been myself, but considering it will be the last year that people I actually know will be on campus, I’ve decided to go with it. It appears to be an elegant event, and I regret waiting until the last hour to find a dress. I just have the odd fear that I will be stuck listening to country western all night long in the spirit of Fort Worth. I guess I never became a true Fort Worthian.
Today, I actually wrapped up writing my seminar paper draft (or outline) and I really don’t know how I feel about it. Although I’ve actually completed my seminar paper requirement, I seem to have wanted to torture myself again this semester. It’s not over yet. Next semester, I’ll have to the take LARW III, another writing requirement which I hope will be a little more self-contained. I think I went a little over the line with my seminar paper topic, but the challenge has sure made me more well-versed in asylum law than I ever would have expected (especially since Immigration Law is not a prerequisite).
I’ve decided that I will continue law school for the next two semesters as a part-time 4L. It doesn’t make sense when I can actually finish it off with one final bang by December. A full-time load costs more, and there are limits to how much aid you can get, hence part-time tuition is the more affordable option. Also, that buys me more time to prep for the Bar and get back into interning. I’m almost certain that I will be making the commute from Dallas as a 4L - the loss of socializing with family and friends has really taken its toll on me. I remember falling in love with Fort Worth fast and hard my first year. Now I miss the vibrancy, colors, and noise of Dallas. I know I will probably regret that as I sit through my first interminable traffic jam. But those are the things you do for a kid who needs to spend four straight years in one high school. And before I leave, I have to at least get a good pair of local boots.
3/7/12 - Fifteen years! I can’t believe it’s been that long since I graduated college with absolutely no clue what my next steps were! I wonder what it would have been like to go straight to law school and become a freshly minted lawyer at 23. No, I can’t imagine it at all. In May, I’ll be going to my 15 year college reunion and will attempt to sweat it out in a 125-year old dorm room with no AC system. I remember that time when I was a homesick girl from Texas, and now for the past 15 years, the nostalgia of being in a place with friends every second and studying among the smell of oak and aged books is something I never want to erase from memory. Can’t wait to go back to the arms of Bryn Mawr.
And from fifteen years comes fourteen hours. I only have fourteen more hours to graduate! That would make me a 3.5L. Will that play out in one final fall semester? It depends. I still have my LARW III requirement to meet and Evidence, which is an upper-class requirement. Not to mention a 30- hour pro-bono requirement that I need to get working on. I know it will work itself out somehow between now and December.
The possibility of an immigration law clinic at the school is also slowly in the works, thanks to our Refugee & Asylum Law professor and the Wesleyan Immigration Initiative. There is a lot of student interest in this project, especially among the 1L’s and 2L’s. I know projects like these will really put Texas Wesleyan Law on the map. Since we are in Texas, somewhere between the South and Southwest, an immigration clinic will allow our students to serve an important local need while immersing them in the collaborative practice of law. I hope to still be a TexWes student by the time the clinic serves its first clients!
2/22/12 - Better Bad Choices - The school crisis at Miramonte Elementary in California reminds of the reasons why I need this law degree. Because of their undocumented status, many parents feared to come forward to the police with their suspicions about child abuse at the trusted hands of teachers. How bad could it be that they imagine that their silent suffering would be less painful than deportation? I can’t put myself in their shoes, but it is hard for me not to make a character judgment. All I know is that there is still a lack of information about the law in several communities, and not just those that speak Spanish or are part of the social “underclass”. Even worse, how can school administrations tolerate letting teachers get by in the face of these suspicions? Isn’t this something for law enforcement and CPS to decide?
As part of my Asylum and Refugee seminar class, I will have the opportunity to inform the refugee community about how domestic violence law and policies affect them. I jumped at the opportunity to participate in this social service project precisely because of the Miramonte crisis. When you have very important people in suits blaming you - the working immigrant class - for their national crises, you just might start believing in false truths and choose to keep certain doors closed. Also, I think it is very important to inform people that we, as plain citizens, are not the ones that hold the measuring stick to determine how badly one is being abused. That is the job of law enforcement and the criminal law. I hope I can encourage our newly arrived refugees to take a stand against any kind of abuse.
The Unexpected Visitor - I feel the heat begin to singe my back, my heart flutters and I’m back at to those months when I was expecting. Constant heart palpitations, inexplicable pain and discomfort. The attendant helps me load the rest of my groceries and tells me that I could have asked for her help. Now that I think about it, that is exactly what I failed to do before. Where impossibility and overload crossed lines I let silence take over. For now, I have this “second chance” to live to the fullest. No matter what happens in life, we must return to the diligent pursuit of our dreams. We have much company in our personal tragedies and these experiences will serve to steel our character. I’ve learned to tread cautiously and know that my compassion will serve me well as a lawyer in the future, one that will undoubtedly help me to have the necessary compassion to counsel my future clients.
2/8/12 – I’m into my third year, and suddenly I’m briefing like a 1L for my First Amendment class. It’s the third year of law school for me, and I thought I’d never have to brief as intensely as I did my 1L year. Very wrong.
Try entering Professor Rambo’s class with only a book brief and you might make it, but you’ll need more than a little luck. Not me. I actually feel that great first-year sensation of jitters with a mixture of nausea, so it is back to briefing cases for me. It just hit me that I might not even be on her seating chart, and the minute I bring it to her attention I know fate will call on me. Until then I brief, rehearse, practice, and hope I don’t get called on.
It’s on to Dallas tomorrow to participate in a film and panel on migrants and cartel violence in an SMU sponsored series called “Migration Matters.” I’ll meet with fellow blogger Carol Longoria, and if I were just ten years younger, I’d say we’d spend the night hitting all the vibrant new nightspots in Dallas. Maybe soon. But for now, I’m content with just doing the student socials near campus.
After resigning from my full-time job, I was eager to reconfigure my financial aid loans. What a relief to find out that I am still eligible for the full amount of my grad-plus loans, even though second semester is well underway! The difference with these loans is that you do have to get your credit approved, although your credit score does not matter. What does matter is how many current past-due accounts you have. You might think you have no problem until you find out that bill collectors accidentally commit what I call “identity fraud,” and figure you owe the debts of people who have similar names! Future lawyers and policy makers, please make this illegal!
On to briefing for my First Amendment class tomorrow…
1/25/12 - As a part-time 3L, I highly disagree with the saying that this is supposed to be the year that law students are bored to death. This semester may very well be my favorite semester of all.
When I was a 1L, I remember feeling overwhelmed in classroom of 100 students. Now, I sit comfortably in smaller classes, especially the seminar classes (limited to 16 students). Not only that, I’ve got the best professors – Professor Helge for Wills & Estates, Professor Rambo for First Amendment (yes, that is her name), and Professor Pham for my seminar course in Refugee & Asylum Law. I’m taking only three courses, a total of nine credit hours, which still keeps me at part-time status. I’ll revel in my extra “free time” for just another week more, and then deal with the grind of finding an internship or a part-time job for the rest of the semester. I do have to admit, I am going through a sort of stress withdrawal.
The Socratic method has worked best in my smaller seminar courses. Professor Pham began our second class dressed up as a client, “Mrs. Ortiz”, who entered our “office” seeking asylum. We had to question her, basing our interviews on what we learned the assigned immigration regulations. This week, we viewed actual asylum interviews, and if I had thought we were hard on “Ms. Ortiz,” I was simply mistaken. These interviews really demonstrated just how things can get lost in translation. Take note - if you ever have the privilege of speaking to a second-language learner, speak slower, not faster or louder!
To follow up on my last blog post, I feel both relieved and blessed that I made the decisions I had to make in order to continue my law school education. I’ve learned to never compare myself to other “superwoman” moms out there, but to realize that there are indeed limits. It feels wonderful being back this semester, and for some reason the ever-gnawing competitive spirit of law school seems to have withdrawn itself to a corner. I sincerely just want to learn and find law school as a place where I can be intellectually challenged - and never be bored to death!
1/11/12 - It’s nice to be back on the blogging scene after my sudden hiatus. As I’ve said before, life continues to happen while you take on law school, and many times it takes many unexpected turns. At times, you might think that fate has simply forgotten you.
Last semester began with my son announcing in very certain terms that he would rebel. As we left what he has termed the “Stepfordian” private school campus in shame, I wondered if I should have listened to him. Then the pressure began to mount as my campus began to change focus. In short, the state labeled our elementary school “low-performing”- every teacher’s nightmare. The inability to stare down the endless scrutiny may have gotten the best of me.
Then came that “je ne sais quoi” feeling some women know very well. I came to find that I was an expectant mother, of beautiful twins as fate had it. But my sarcasm and lightheartedness ends here. Somewhere in the mix of working, going to law school, going through emotional whirlwinds with my son, my body was beginning to give in. After a few weeks, an embryo becomes a fetus, a fetus becomes a baby, and for the unfortunate, a baby becomes mere “fetal tissue” as its remnants succumb to a fetal demise.
I found myself in a new stage of life, joining the ranks of women who don’t know whether to bury their babies, now tissue, in contravention of social norms, or keep them forever sealed in holy water, in further contravention of social norms, or just put these remnants in the hands of medicine for uncertain fates in accord with the norm. The result is the same - nameless children whose mothers are forever left to count lost birthdays.
Law school and a career can change you into a very competitive creature. This recent experience has made me come to terms with my limits. I can’t do it all, and I won’t ever endeavor to try it again. Coming to terms has meant that I can only do law school, and though I would want to give everything to the 22 students I leave behind, it is time to make myself and my family first.
9/21/11 - As I hear on the news that yet another execution took place in Texas, I find myself more willing to listen to someone professing innocence. I find myself changed after spending just a few weeks in the Actual Innocence seminar course. Too many people claim innocence in many aspects of life, if only to save face, so much so that we resign ourselves to rolling our eyes and giving it a collective, "Whatever..."
My son has the wild idea that having access to DNA testing in a claim of innocence should be a constitutional right. Well, some think that not having access to DNA testing is not “egregious” enough to be protected. It’s all about the process. Should it be "fair trial, then shut up," even if the verdict came out wrong? Why would any district attorney fight against using DNA to prove someone is actually innocent?
This news of capital punishment, parents stabbing children, and good ol’ Texan senators fussin’ about last meals greeted my new guest, Ms. Myodo, an exchange teacher from Nagaoka, Japan. I wonder what she thought of us, of them, I don’t even know how to put it.
Well, balancing everything between work, school and life has finally come close to coming undone. I am going to having to make different decisions on how I am handling things. I don’t want to come to the point where I have to decide that I need a semester off from school, and I definitely cannot take a semester off from work. Perhaps I’ll have to find another job and take a drastic pay cut. Unfortunately, that would mean more stress. However, I also don’t want to lose everything I’ve put into this semester. In the meantime I’ve learned to listen - listen to other working women and female law school women and see how they avoid burnout. In the end, I know that if I can resolve this and get through law school, I’ll have the resolve to get through anything!
9/7/11 - Now it’s the third week into school, and I finally figured out why innocence claims are called Actual Innocence Claims. It’s not just another legal term of art; it is an extremely hard claim to make. When my Innocence class professor asked me why I had decided to take his class, I forgot to spin my tongue seven times before blurting out that I had absolutely no compassion for criminal defendants. I realize I have a very harsh bias.
Now, I do find it unsettling that it is that exact bias that has caused certain prosecutors to withhold evidence, to refuse access to DNA testing, and at times, to fiddle with the circumstances to secure a coveted conviction. In the end, anyone can claim to be innocent, but to be actually innocent is a rare triumph of the few. And the danger of bias is all in the numbers: the majority of those wrongfully convicted were black men who committed cross-cultural crimes.
Besides loving my Saturday class, I’m about to move into my new neighborhood next weekend. And the weekend after that, I’ll be hosting an international exchange teacher from Japan for a few days. It might be quite a cultural shock for her to see that I’m no June Cleaver. Hopefully, at least that my Tex-Mex-Mumbai curry will impress her - only take-out has impressed me lately. She’ll spend her visit with my son’s class, who I’m happy to report has done well in the new halls of private academia. I think that must have something to do with having 15 students in a classroom.
My own classroom is now at 23, and just to let you know, there is an unconfirmed rumor that our lawmakers have upped the classroom size to 24 from 22. Less teachers, more students, and educational budget cuts all equal no Rick Perry for me. Well, I suppose those who make decisions affecting my classroom have all sold out on public education like me - it won’t affect our kids anyway. Yes, that is my sarcasm talking.
8/24/11 - It’s Texas-hot lately, unbearably hot, and you know its bad when school children start arguing about how its way too hot to be bothered with outdoor recess. Well, that’s how hot it’s been the first week back at work, after being able to hibernate during the hottest part of the day during the summer. By the time I sit in law school at night, I’ve sweated profusely, grown a new set of sweat pimples, and hope that I don’t smell too bad. I know it rained sometime last night - for at least two minutes, I actually remembered what a cool breeze felt like.
Aside from the heat, I can’t wait for this Saturday, when I have the first session of my Actual Post-Conviction Innocence Claims class with Professor Ware from the Dallas DA’s office. This is one of those few out-of-the-box courses (or non-bar courses) that I’ve been able to take, and it is one that I’m taking just because I feel like it. Loading your schedule with bar courses stifles your brain and drains any passion you may feel for law or justice. I hope this class can revive the onset of “senioritis” or 3L slump that is slowly seeping in.
I thought I would enjoy Family Law, considering I want to practice it, but I can’t say much about the class. It’s one of those so-called code classes, so I’m thinking I’ll have to apply for the Law Clinic to get a better real world taste of family law. Texas Criminal Procedure has been a little more engaging, but still on more than one occasion this semester I have seriously thought to myself, “What in the world am I doing? Will I fall flat on my face? How old will I look after spending another year and a half doing all this?”
Well, I’m blaming it on the slump and will forget about that gnawing feeling I’m starting to get. I suppose everyone feels it every now and then, so perhaps I need to learn to take time off and have a little fun sometime. Maybe it will happen Saturday, in class…
8/17/11 – Finally, I got my summer school grades and I was surprised by the results. I got the grades I expected, but not for the expected corresponding classes. The class I felt tentative about I did well in, the class I felt extremely secure about was good, but law school has a way of making you want more, more, more! It’s always a good practice to request a look at your exams – you can see what you have to improve on and then move on. Just move on.
I’ve had my first few sessions this week in Texas Criminal Procedure and Family Law. It was great to catch up with my old classmates from 1L year, who are now in their last year of law school. It feels bittersweet to be “left behind,” but I’m also grateful that I had the option to work at my pace in the evening program.
The stress of the first week back at school and work has been compounded by a wicked infection that made me feel like a leper. Throughout this horrible ordeal, where my temper flared, my impatience and indifference rendered me a monster, and my son felt the growing disconnect, I can’t believe my partner held onto his patience of steel. I was warned several times that marriages flounder and relationships are cut short by the monster of law school. Someone else warned me to get rid of unimportant relationships. But this week has taught me the meaning of “beyond being in love.” I am just glad someone else was patient enough to show that to me. Boyfriend shout-out: Je t’aime Bob Millner, bisou!
8/10/11 - I’m looking forward to the comfortable routine of work and school, especially the homework that will keep my son occupied. I still hear so many reports about TV turning young brains into mush, but here comes the era of smart phones and Facebook chatting. Texting seems to be the main pastime of teens, and the only benefit it has over television is that children at the least get to exercise their thumbs. Being at home with nothing left to do with my son has reminded me that once upon a time, children invented theater games, wrote great books, and well, just read great books in moments like this.
But that’s children - what about mom and child? No, they don’t want to learn how to cook, do their summer math lessons, or have quiet reading time with you at Starbucks. Well, I’m just trying to figure out alternatives to texting and the only success has been dinner and movie time. I can’t wait for soccer practice and homework…
Before the summer ended, I found myself interning and doing pro bono hours at the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office for the Family Violence Division. It was nice to see other Texas Wesleyan Law interns there, especially Lori Bodino, who was nice enough to show me around. We got to see an entire day’s worth of voir dire (jury selection) for an assault case. I also had the chance to meet Judge Mitchell, who was very nice and helpful. The greatest thing about my assignment in the Family Violence Division is that I can work on it from home. I feel very fortunate!
I’m still waiting for summer session grades and I figure I may be waiting until next week. I’ll be taking only three classes this semester, a total of eight hours. I’m excited about Family Law and my weekend class, Post-Conviction Actual Innocence Claims. These weekend and condensed classes are a lifesaver for part-timers like me. Congratulations and welcome to all the 1Ls!
7/27/11 – Well, enough of rabbit holes and bitter after-tastes. Now comes the reality of preparing for grade school and law school. My four weeks of vacation have been nicely upended by the anticipatory rage of the few weeks before it happens all over again. As much as I’d like to let my mind rest, a trip to the grocery store reminds me that it’s back to school season again. But somewhere deep inside me, I can’t wait to make my classroom that perfect little happy place.
When people ask me now how many more years of law school I have to endure, I really don’t know what to say. I am scheduled to graduate either in December 2012 or May 2013, depending on how much madness I want to endure next summer. Whatever it is, it is way too long from now. It would get here sooner if I would be either crazy enough or rich enough to take 12 semester hours like a normal part-time student.
Tony, my son, is a little fed-up with the transient college lifestyle we’ve been caught up with. He doesn’t feel “at-home” in our shrinking apartment nor did he like seeing his mother in a panicked frenzy during summer session, most of which I spent shut in my bedroom. He misses having a neighborhood filled with children, playing a game of pick-up basketball… he misses the sound of life I suppose. Honestly, I also miss the neighborhood chismosa or gossip queen, the inconvenient visits of family members, and the life with friends I’ve left behind in Dallas. Some kids are satisfied with a television and I don’t know what else, and some adults might be content with Facebook and impersonal relationships, but I really don’t know… Now the search for a house begins - at least one I can rent until graduation day.
By next blog, I’ll let you know how my summer classes went and whether it was all worth it. Hopefully I’ll see you all at the Law Lawpalooza August 6!
7/6/11 - Vengeance has its aftertaste, and I hear it is metallic and bitter. This is the way I felt about one week ago when I found out the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole granted leniency to one of its better citizens. Well, at least I feel like I fell into some rabbit hole of a time warp, where a 24 year sentence can be served in as little as three. In the world of criminal defense, this has been lately a very magical world. But, I am reminded that the law does not necessarily mean justice. I’ll rely on the character of human fallacy to return one into a “prisoner of their own device.” Unfortunately, I hear the recidivism rate is really high.
One agency that does have its head out of the rabbit hole seems to be the Attorney General’s Office. I am not convinced that the amount of child support one receives is ever enough, but this office at the least sticks to principle and will find its offenders, even when they leave without a trace. Well, it does brighten my day to know that at least I’m not alone on this one.
I have just a few days until summer law exams and I have to admit that my test anxiety is higher than ever. It’s the preparation that really gets to you, not the actual exam. I don’t think I want to do this again next summer, and if I must, I’ll just stick to one class. My family will come out this weekend to celebrate my birthday and that relaxed mood should be a nice precursor to my short summer vacation.
6/22/11 - I was surprised to see that I managed to get better grades than most other semesters, especially since this one has been such a struggle. Perhaps it’s the wonderful thing called “pressure” that really pushed me into study mode. Other than that, I had to believe in the magic of streamlining. It meant having the guts to leave work most days soon after the school bell rung and getting over the invented guilt of not paying enough attention to my Tony while I studied at home. Not only did I perform better in my own classes, but my students also did remarkably well on their state assessments. And best of all, we managed to have fun under all of that pressure. I remember the feeling mid-semester- like everything was about to explode, and I am now relieved to say that it didn’t.
I remember bragging to my friends how I would now use that wonderful day-job salary to pay for tuition. Could you imagine walking out of law school without any school loans!? As great as I imagine that would be, Life, of course, interrupts our imagination. Private school happened, and just like that I’ve “sold-out” of the public school system – well, at least when it comes to my son. It comes with a hefty price tag, and so I’m left borrowing for my own tuition, like every other normal law student.
My brain needs its summer. I have been struggling with my newly–acquired love affair with the Victorian novel. While I have hundreds of pages of Oil and Gas and Marital Property, I spend almost entire days reading and re-reading words, sentences and phrases that are so much more memorable than pooling clauses and irrevocable testamentary trusts. Can’t wait for a real summer vacation!
6/3/11 – I am three weeks into law summer session and one day away from being officially off of work for the next two and a half months. What a treat! But half of that, of course, will be spent in Oil and Gas and Marital Property. I was initially very leery about taking Oil & Gas, but I have actually found the subject quite interesting, if only because I like learning about things I know absolutely nothing about.
Classes are a lot smaller during the summer, but they are just as intense. In fact, I underestimated what two classes would feel like while I was still working full time these past two weeks. Instead of being in a three hour class for one and half hours a night, you take the total three hours in one session. Well, it takes a toll on you. Never even think of drinking chamomile tea during class unless you’d like to embarrass yourself and fall asleep while the professor is lecturing…Yes it happened to me and I just hope he didn’t notice!
As much as I wanted to get more “law experience” this summer, I am actually forcing myself not to intern and work. I discovered last week in class that there is nothing worse than a tired brain trying to recite a case. Yes, I read and re-read it, but I forgot all about it when it came time to recite! At least I get another shot at being called on. Can’t wait to dedicate most of my time to just studying in the law library!
5/11/11 - Wednesday brings a great occasion to wrap-up the school year. Exams are over with. And now, the thrill of dedicating the next four weeks to reading E.B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web” with my third graders, pretending that checking papers actually stresses me out, mulling at Starbuck’s while my son learns how to box, feeling the anti-climactic pleasantness of no law school, and deciding to leave other chores to the cleaning lady. And then there is that one exam that plays devil’s advocate with you.
Oh no. Summer law school actually begins May 23. I have only about a week to feel the pleasure of “nothingness.” Nothing to study, nothing to read, nothing to make my mind run in overdrive. “Nothing” feels absolutely awful. I think I have to admit I have become almost attached to having too much to do. What I’ve learned this year is that law school actually prepares you to go beyond the limits of stress, beyond thinking that anything is too much. Like little Wilbur who goes to his comfortable place when warm slops fill his trough, there is nothing like the feeling of tackling life when my plate is overly full. If “less than nothing” actually exists, I don’t ever want to know what it feels like.
Some people try to measure others in their classrooms based on hearsay and quick conclusions. I must admit, however, that I have newfound respect for all of those evening students that started this journey part-time. This semester was probably the hardest in my entire career at law school, even perhaps more so than my 1L year. I don’t think I could have done it without having been a full-time first year student. I’m grateful for my evening professors whose practical and engaging teaching style made it less daunting.
The fact remains that nothing stops life while law school happens: some work, some worry about children, worry about their loved ones, and try to deal with ailing health issues. I’m sure that all this stress now is great preparation for our future lives as lawyers.
Literary references, devices, and writing style based on EB White’s Charlotte’s Web. The opinions in this blog do not reflect the opinions of the Fort Worth Independent School District.
4/27/11 - Wednesday brings the end of the statewide TAKS, at least for my third graders. Like our law exam grades, my classroom passing rate will be the single most important measure of my performance. Doesn’t sound so enlightening when it comes to grade school, but that’s just the way things are. I don’t know how I feel about finicky eighth graders testing all day long for two days in a row, but I really wonder how many of our legislators in Austin have children that they actually send to public school. But, I retreat from getting too political when I have law school exams consuming me.
I have two more evenings plus the weekend to study for one of my exams. Then, an additional evening for exam number two after that. Yes, the studying does gradually get easier as our brains become accustomed to swallowing up voluminous amounts of information in a matter of hours. I have piles of note cards I still need to run through, plus an outline that just may not get the final touches. At this point, I really do miss having entire days to study, and I know that it will take some serious caffeine to be alert and ready at 6pm after a hard day’s work. Maybe I will just go ahead and take a personal day off.
The take-home exam is one of the greatest inventions of all time. Although 24 hour exams can make leave you sleepless and insane, there also exists the extended take home exam that is due in over a week. I still can’t think of looking at it until I am done with the first two scheduled exams, but I appreciate having the opportunity to streamline my studying and not having to think that I have to memorize everything in vain. Well, it’s 11:00 pm on a weeknight and I am back to studying…
4/13/11 - As my darling third grade students impatiently wave their hands to answer questions, moaning in disappointment when they don’t get picked, it makes me wonder if there will ever be a day that law students will ever struggle so desperately to get called on.
Can you imagine it? A room full of one hundred students panting and competing to recite cases, just because… This seems to be the case in my Texas Pre-Trial Procedure class (well not that bad), where now more students seem to be raising their hands to volunteer cases in hopes of getting at least one participation point before they fall behind on the curve. I have really enjoyed the volunteer system in this class, rather than the random being called-on method. It actually made me better prepared in class, although I myself chose only to volunteer three times - perhaps next week I’ll be the frantic student trying to get first dibs on the very last case.
I’ve selected my classes for summer session, which means I did not get the internship I wanted. I am grateful that I was selected to be interviewed for one of five coveted positions nationwide. This will actually work in my favor, since now I can catch up to my ex-daytime cohort and be an official 3L this fall. I still can’t imagine, however, what in the world I will ever find exciting about Oil and Gas.
Home life has complicated itself a bit more as my son has decided, or rather I have decided, to allow him to train as a boxer. In my head, I had always imagined him as a nerdy academic, but such is life - because after all, it’s his life and not mine. But for all my reservations, I have to admit that he is quite an impressive athlete, and even becomes my personal trainer during my weekend workouts. It’s challenging to only be able to sit at home for one hour before we race to the gym and school, but as I finish up this semester, I can finally feel that the law school end is indeed near.
3/30/11 - Crunch time is still a challenge, and I figure it will always be as long as I’m in law school. The pressure at work has also mounted with the stress and anxiety of state assessments. Although my students don’t know what all the fuss is about, they can sense that their teacher is not her usual self as of late. I finally decided to hire some “help” at home and it seems to be one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made! It takes such a huge burden off of me to know that someone else will get to the chores at least once a week.
This time of the year, several student organizations begin to hold elections for next year’s board. One slight disadvantage I have found as an evening student is that you can’t be as involved as you’d like to be. Most meetings are held at noon, and of course, many of us can’t get away from our jobs at that time. I won’t join any boards next year, the little extra time I have I must devote to home life.
The fall schedule is now online, and after my experience this semester, I know that I should stick to 8:00 PM and take only one class per day. That is the ideal schedule, and I hope I can stick to it as much as possible. I didn’t take class prep time into account this semester, so I’ll avoid 6:30 PM classes in the future so I can enjoy my dinner at the least.
This weekend, I hope to finish at least one of my outlines and complete my flash cards for Texas Pre-trial Procedure - the only class I have that is 100% multiple choice. Our Criminal Procedure exam seems straightforward, and I am extremely grateful that my professor has given us several explicit hints throughout the semester as well as two skeletal outlines. I didn’t have a problem this time around telling my family this past Sunday that they won’t be hearing from me until mid-May.
3/23/11 - Well none of my Spring Break plans ever came to be, as I began my first day off slowly falling to pieces. As I ate dinner Friday night with my son before his trip to Costa Rica, we both began complaining about sore throats. As soon as I left him at the airport, I decided to begin my “me-time” with a little shopping, only to find myself feeling suddenly faint. The rest of the weekend was a blur, and on Sunday night I was vehemently refusing to eat even mom’s hot cinnamon tea and chicken soup (thankfully, my family came to my rescue). On Monday, I found out I had strep throat and figure that maybe a “minor” illness becomes a major one when you’re 35…
I didn’t begin my study plans until Wednesday, and it irked to have missed 4 days of outlining and studying. I can’t say I’m writing all of my own outlines, nor could I imagine such a feat with a full-time job. I’m sure there are people who do it, but for this semester at least, I will focus on doing practice problems and not dwell on authoring a 75 page composition on something I will more than likely forget over the summer. I feel some hope in knowing that at least one of my friends scored an A by using someone else’s outline - she did however, make her own note cards, and of course, did plenty of practice questions.
This last half of the semester has been quite challenging. It has become harder and harder to keep up with readings in class while the demands of my job take a toll on me. My third graders have their TAKS test the last week of April, so while I am gearing up into exam mode, I am also doing the same for them. That means I am constantly reworking my lesson plans, tutoring, and analyzing my class data. The most challenging part is dealing with the stress of both high-stakes tests. Like law school, a teacher’s success is measured by grades alone, bottom line.
I have yet to figure out exactly what I’m doing for the summer, as I’m still waiting to hear back regarding one internship. In weighing my options, I think the wisest thing to do would be to take summer courses so I could graduate only a semester after my daytime cohort. And then maybe I could get to Miami…
3/2/11 - “Said is dead,” reads my son’s writing tip sheet and I add that to my list of “was,” “since,” and “to be,” that are on the legal writing no-list. He spent all of Tuesday writing for the state’s high-stakes Writing TAKS test, and if he hadn’t done well last time around in fourth grade, I would have spent the entire evening stressed over his chosen topic - boxing. Not very academic or intellectually engaging (at least for me), but I am satisfied that he has many of Ali’s quotes penned in his memory. My favorite is, “I hated every minute of training but I said to myself, ‘Don’t quit, suffer now, and live the rest of your life as a champion.’” The simplicity of the message is enough to give me a small jolt of encouragement.
I don’t know many people who love the grueling hours spent reading cases, and even less those who have to renounce their social lives (especially Spring Break) to write monster outlines. This Spring Break, rather than dedicate my hours catching up with pro-bono hours, I am deciding between Miami and Colorado - what’s the tie-breaker? Where I can study and focus better. Worst of all is that I have to consider where I can be alone most of the time. That is what Spring Break looks like as a law student, at least if you want to be that champion. It will be impossible to cram anymore as a working student, so for now, the spring brings suffering…
I’ve discovered that I can do my reading in class when the discussion veers extremely off-course. Especially when the professor is in complete disagreement with someone’s analysis - that’s a signal to stop taking notes or even getting lost in the discussion. But sometimes things get interesting, especially when it relates to you directly. What if, posed my professor, districts required teachers to be tested for drugs in the same manner that the courts have allowed students to be tested? Hmmm. Well if I answered that question here, I would probably lose my job.
2/16/11 - This week will finally be the first full week of work I’ve had since starting my job three weeks ago. Although I am fatigued beyond description, I had plenty of nice surprises as I restarted my teaching career - especially the snow week. Now I am in the midst of repacking an entire classroom as the school expands. The best thing of all has been the kiddos - I didn’t realize how much I missed them. I have yet to reveal that I am in law school, in hopes of avoiding a flood of parent questions that I am not authorized to answer…
Last Thursday evening, I rushed to my 8pm class only to find that it was cancelled. I used to enjoy these last minute cancellations, but they are not such a treat when you rush home from work, rush through dinner, and race to school, only to find out that you could have had a free evening. Aaah! In any case, I had plenty of studying to do, so I didn’t mind using that extra time to read.
I am patiently waiting to hear back from MALDEF. It is highly competitive, so as an alternative I am making plans to attend a summer session abroad. I previously had my eyes set on the American University at Cairo, but I don’t know how feasible that will be now that Egypt is in the midst of building its democracy. I hope these popular movements achieve their goals and would love to have the chance to visit and learn how the legal system will change under a new constitution.
Of course, I have fallen behind again in all of my classes. I brief cases for only one class, the class I think will be the hardest, and I have fallen in love with my keyed study guides. In one class, we volunteer to recite and discuss cases for points, so on my worst days this is the one class I review less for. The bad thing is that you will fall behind on the curve if you don’t volunteer. So far I have only one point…
2/2/11 - Well, I couldn’t have asked for a better first week back at work! My first day (Tuesday) began the four day winter “vacation” at FWISD. Although I was going to miss Thursday and Friday for interviews in Austin, now I can save my personal days in case I come down with a severe case of exam flu. I’m also relieved that my son did not have to use any school days to deal with the flu. Fate must have fallen in love with me - four extra chances to deal with a sick child and prolong my days of sleeping in only happen once in a lifetime…
But all good things must come to a bittersweet end. As soon as I left Dallas, Austin braced itself for its share of sleet and snow. I don’t know if our Public Interest Career Day interviews at UT Law will continue as planned on Friday, or if I will even be able to get out of here - not that I mind prolonging my stay. But I am relieved that fellow blogger Carol is only a short drive away and I don’t mind a second helping of the wonderful homemade enchiladas, rice, and cheesecake her family cooked for us last night! (Thank you Carol!!)
My first interview went extremely well, and once again fate brought a substitute interviewer for MALDEF who just so happens to have litigated several of the educational civil rights cases I was very familiar with. I was very inspired by his passion and work, and hope I can be one of five interns that can assist him with a school finance case for English Language Learners out of Colorado. Tomorrow (hopefully) my interview with Human Rights Initiative will proceed. I would be ecstatic to get either one!
1/19/11 - As a night owl, the evening program seems to be the place I have been longing for. The tension seems less severe, and I have found that differing generational perspectives put me in a comfort zone. I am glad not to be the only thirtysomething-plus in class. Not that it matters, but something about sitting in a class of people with suits and ties and more grey hair than me makes me feel like I belong. Knowing that most of the other students are coming to class after a full-day’s work is relieving some of the anxiety I am facing as I countdown my return to work.
The biggest news as of yet is that I was pre-selected to interview in Austin as part of the Public Interest Career Day held annually at UT Law. The organizations I am interviewing with handle immigration law and policy, civil rights litigation, and refugee and asylum cases. One of them is MALDEF (Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund), one of the most preeminent civil rights organizations in the Southwest - I am honored just to have been selected for an interview. I have to thank Career Services for their advice on sending in my seminar paper on immigrant victims of violence applying for the U-Visa, rather than the standard legal memo that had nothing to do with the work of these organizations. It seemed like a risk but it worked!
As I enter the second week of school in the fourth semester of law school, I have once again decided to change my game plan and do what my gut wants me to do. I have returned to briefing, re-reading for retention, and recalling all my rules out-loud. Yes, it sounds very old school, especially when I have given up using my laptop for notes and reserve it only for outlining. Pen and paper have always worked best for me and I’m not sure why I fell for the illusion of laptop note-taking. The prospect of a full-time workweek at the least has convinced me that the time to outline or note-organizing and memorization is now. I hope that pressure sticks through next week…
1/12/11 - Part-time evening law student. Night school just feels different, but I am glad to see at least a few of my former classmates. This semester I’ve cautiously made the choice to take only 3 courses (a total of nine hours). I want to make sure that my full-time career as a teacher is compatible with my law school life. My schedule is not so bad: I have Tuesdays and, of course, Fridays off, and on Monday and Wednesday I’m in classes from 6:30-9:15. I like to think that the part-time evening program is time well spent, considering that my total commute time in Dallas (before law school) took a total of two hours to and from work. Now my commute time has been replaced with a legal education - I think it’s a fabulous trade off.
Work. Because I officially began my career with public education once again on February 1st, I have had time enough to adjust to law school. As I try hard to appreciate the trade-offs of working while in law school, one thing really relieves me - I won’t have to worry about the dreaded law school loans. This semester will be the last I will have to borrow money to finance my tuition and expenses. That sounds like winning the lottery, but honestly, I have to forego my fantasies of buying a new car and renting in a nicer place, but getting a “nanny” may be the only luxury I may give in to…
Part-time mommy. He might as well be a teenager now, and is begging me not to get a “babysitter.” Not even a “cleaning lady” or “personal chef” would do.
This summer. I have applied for a few internships this summer through the Texas Law School Consortium Public Interest bidding system. I imagine it is pretty competitive, and I know the process was time consuming. If I get that golden internship this summer, I will have to put off taking summer courses, but will at least attempt externship credit. Another positive thing about going back to my education career - my summers are free and I can afford to do internships in public interest that I would otherwise be unable to do. I’m glad I can finally breathe and look forward to a great semester and summer!
12/15/10 - I’m relieved that I can finally put my feet up and relax, if only for a weekend. My winter break began with interviews for teaching positions in FWISD (it pays exceptionally well) and facing the inevitable questions, “How will you handle it,” and “So how long are you planning to stay with us?” It has not been easy convincing anyone that I should be hired, even with extensive teaching experience and many accolades under my belt. It has been even more difficult convincing an all-female interview committee that yes, I can be a mother, a student and a teacher (and why that should not matter). Teachers have a low turnover rate in this district and there are only a handful of positions open. I thought it wouldn’t be hard at all, but it looks like a tight job market has changed everything.
I finally made the decision to become a part-time evening student, and although deep inside I have some reservations, I feel at ease knowing that the school at least offers the option to convert my status come next fall. It will be a difficult task, but after studying and taking law school exams, very few things seem to scare me. I’ve also come to know other teachers that are attending law school part-time and they don’t look frazzled at all. I also know that I definitely would not have been able to handle this as a 1L. It is a very personal choice - there are several students who have other full time careers and families and manage to handle law school rather well. My son, almost 13, is also up to the task of tending to his own needs so that at the least is squared away.
I’m sure my performance on exams will bring better results than last year, but of course one exam has been making me lose sleep. There seems to be always one that gets away…I know now what my forte is and what to avoid at all costs - I will definitely take advantage of the pass/fail option in lieu of grades for the spring.
I hope you all have a wonderful and restful break! Good luck on your law school applications!
11/23/10 - I’ve decided to take a mental break from the reality of exam life and reminisce…
Microburst. I’ve heard that word only a handful of times since moving out of Oak Cliff in Dallas. On the way home one evening, I abandoned the freeway and ventured through downtown to avoid traffic, and the storm. An eerie stillness settled in as I drove down the Houston Street viaduct to Oak Cliff. Surely it was a tornado, and I imagined getting out of my car and taking cover. In a skyscraper? I decided to get onto the viaduct and figured if any tornado were in sight I would have heard about it before then. As soon as I drove off the bridge and landed near Founder’s Park everything changed. Trees and branches blocked the main streets of a now deserted Oak Cliff. As I drove through Illinois Avenue I had to avoid an intersection where the old Coombs Creek once again decided to run its centuries-old course.
And there I was, at the corner of Illinois and Duncanville where a marvelous coil of aluminum stood where the carwash used to be. My neighborhood “Las Villas,” a “charming” attempt at gated living, had a stone barrier so I couldn’t see a thing. Las Villas at the least had only saplings, but still, the silence unsettled me. Where were all the wooden fences in our backyards? I panicked. “Are you ok,” a neighbor asks me as I looked for my dog. She tells me how her family quickly took cover. Yes, it was a tornado!
No, I wasn’t ok. No sirens, no radio warnings. Without power, I called my family. Nothing happened, they assured me, nothing happened anywhere near me. But North Dallas was hit “badly.” I went to work the next day and asked my colleagues if they had heard about the tornado. No? Really? But there was a tornado in my neighborhood! Days later my coworker runs up to me and blabbers, “Microburst,” and “giant aluminum coil.” Really?
No one would ever believe our village tale of the Oak Cliff Tornado, where the eye of the storm landed right on Las Villas. The next day my wooden fence was back in place. My neighbors had decided to take it upon themselves to repair the neighborhood. All this, in less time than any newscaster could make it over to tell the story of how a part of the city was utterly forgotten in an unreported F-3 tornado. . And in our forgotten little village we know, when the saplings bend more than 45 degrees and silence follows a howling wind, we run for cover.
11/10/10 - It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The time for counting down, dreaming of golden outlines, finding time where there isn’t any, leaving laundry and dishes to their own devices, and wondering how to tell my family and friends that now I must ignore them once again as we all settle into hermit mode. Maybe a Facebook status update will suffice, maybe an even more impersonal text, but even the third time around I feel really uncomfortable preparing everyone for my exam schedule. It’s also the time to appreciate the lenses of hindsight and compare our strategies to the ones we used last year, wondering whether we’ll climb ahead in the class ranks or fall off the rungs. I just hope to stay on the darn ladder. Now is also the time I repeatedly kick myself for picking courses that had back-to-back exam dates, but oh well, at least I enjoyed my 2L schedule throughout the year.
On Thursday, my Domestic Violence Seminar course is having a special breakfast as we present our research papers. We have seven minutes to prepare a roundtable discussion of our topics, but I am sure those seven minutes will be nothing compared to those three minutes of oral arguments that made my stomach turn last year. Our final paper is due next Thursday, and this week I am actually still wrapping up some of the interviews for my research…I consider these last few interviews “final touches” and not procrastination…
Yesterday, the Texas Wesleyan Women’s Law Student Association sponsored a mentor-mixer, and invited attorneys in fields including Intellectual Property, Immigration, and Civil Litigation. That makes two mixers for me this year, and I always appreciate getting the chance to meet other successful Texas Wesleyan Law alumnae. On Monday, the Hispanic Law Students Association showcased another alumna, Veronica Garza, an immigration attorney at Catholic Charities of Fort Worth, who spoke about the importance of interning, networking, and committing yourself to work in an area of law in line with your beliefs, and accepting positions in places that align with your personal sense of ethics. Back to outlining…
10/27/10 - The end of October begins the official countdown to finals, and there’s a flurry of activities to remind all that time is hardly ever on our side…
This Tuesday, I enjoyed a nice “Dinner with Deans” event in the Student Conference Center. I sat with Dean Short and some of my classmates and we discussed bar prep issues, registering for classes, and of course, baseball (there are some die hard sports fans here).
Other than mingling with the Deans, we had the chance to bid on the Silent Auction sponsored by the Texas Wesleyan Public Interest Law Fellowship. I bid on a few items, including a photo session, an autographed “Timbaland” poster (for my son of course), and a set of framed reproductions donated by the Kimbell Art Museum. On Friday, we will have a Game Show Night and a Live Auction (I’m bidding for the 5-Day stay at a condo in Padre!!!) and we will also close up the Silent Auction bids. All the funds raised benefit the Public Interest Fellowship Program that provides stipends to students who will work for a public interest agency during summer break.
This Wednesday I had a seminar paper due (it was a very rough draft), and on Tuesday I was once again on call for my favorite class, Con Law. I was also on call last Thursday, and I am glad that I at least got to make up for my Jan Brewer moment (YouTube it). Because Con Law deals with so many sensitive topics, sometimes you have to analyze things against your gut (and according to the paradigms that constrict your reasoning). Those moments of reacting to charged questions can quickly turn into utter silence…so much for color-coding, highlighting and book-briefing cases.
This Sunday I will attend an MPRE review course, even though I am not even taking the exam (I hope it will help with my Professional Responsibility final). Next week, my Domestic Violence Seminar Class is holding a panel on immigration and domestic violence issues – yes, my two favorite topics. We have invited attorneys from Safe Haven and Catholic Charities to come and speak to us about their work in immigration law. Can’t wait!
10/13/10 - Last time around, I was elated to have found a job and eagerly awaited grant funds that would give me a paycheck. Well, I left before finding out. I am actually relieved that I am no longer there and I am predicting that the non-profit I was working for will also no longer be there. All I have to say is that when you get a funny feeling that something is not right, more than likely your intuition is correct. And if you doubt yourself, do a background check and your worst fears may be confirmed. Yes, I am intentionally withholding details, and in sum it was a disaster. But in telling the whirlwind story of my two week stint in an uncomfortable place, I was led to another job prospect. And yes, it has taken me forever to find the right place at which to work and now realize I should have started my search in the spring…
At last, I finally decided to attend a student group social sponsored by the Family Law Student Association and it was nothing like I expected - I had the stubborn idea that the bar scene was no place to network with adults. It was nothing like that – I had the chance to meet some students I didn’t even know were in my class, and I even think I found my attorney mentor “match.”
The next day, the Family Law Student Association, together with the Hispanic Law Student Association, the Public Interest Law Fellowship, and the Women’s Law Student Association held the Domestic Violence Awareness Luncheon. We heard from a panel of family law attorneys, district attorneys, and a judge, and learned about the legal remedies available to victims of domestic violence. Some of these remedies, however, are not fully effective, as they require the full participation of the domestic violence victim, who may recant and drop charges out of coercion and fear.
On a personal note, I am almost certain that I will change status to a part-time evening student next semester and also considering going back to full-time teaching. I had an initial interview with Fort Worth Independent School District and the prospect of having a paycheck and health insurance sounds like an offer too good to pass up. In hindsight, I know I could not have handled working full time as a 1L, but as a 2L it seems quite manageable. Have a great week!
9/29/10 - I just finished my Con Law exam - I think we are never satisfied with what we’ve done because there are infinite possibilities in applying or extending any number of cases to our fact pattern. There came a point during the test where I had to say, “Stop now and move on.” I prepared for this midterm extensively - more than I admit to studying for finals last spring. Even though I had all that going for me, I think I wasted a few minutes staring at my outlines and at the computer screen, completely frozen. It just happens: the clock is moving, the possible applications cannot be contained, and then your brain does not know how to rein things in and get back in control. Honestly, I think it was next to impossible to touch on every issue and find all the case analyses that applied, but hey, it is over with, so I just have to learn and forget about it.
Now that it is all over, I can spend the next few weeks catching up with all the other subjects (and people) I left behind. I finally got a “job” working at a non-profit in Arlington, which is a relief once they decide to pay me. I am still contemplating the move back to Dallas to ease the burden on my finances, and hope to have all that sorted out by the end of the month. I think I have said this before, but now more than ever, I am missing the salary I enjoyed for the past ten years. Student life is a tremendous sacrifice, and I really can’t wait for the day until it all pays off.
I will observe a family violence hearing in Dallas next week as part of my seminar class in Domestic Violence. I also have a 20 page paper due in November for this course. The thought of writing that paper seems very appealing, considering I don’t have to try to write it in under two and a half hours (or even four hours) under exam constraints.
Other big news, my boyfriend is coming back to town, so I look forward to spending more time with him and having a more involved social life. I hope I don’t ignore him as much as I did my 1L year…Last year I missed Fort Worth’s celebration of MusicArte coming up on October 8 in downtown’s Sundance Square, but this year I will be there, and yes, that will be my dose of nightlife for the entire year…
9/15/10 - The job search is still underway, and I underestimated how long it would take to write resumes and wait for job posting periods to expire. I have applied to several legal and educational jobs, have done a few interviews, and have continued the job hunt. One recent interview went really well, but it is never easy to predict if you land the job given all the competition. In hindsight, I should have begun the search earlier in the semester and will definitely start getting ready for the summer…
Keeping up with class readings this year has been a bit easier because our class schedules are less restricted. So far I am still enjoying Constitutional Law the most, and sometimes find myself equally swayed by both the majority and dissent in the many cases we read. This class by far is the most reading intensive - at times I spend the entire weekend consumed in Constitutional Law. We have a midterm at the end of September, so I figure this time is well spent. In my Domestic Violence Seminar, we have met several leaders in the field from Dallas and Tarrant counties who have varied opinions about both victims and abusers. This has led to great classroom discussion, and I personally enjoy being challenged by new or opposing ideas.
This week I have the Ricardo de los Santos Scholarship Fiesta to attend, which is sponsored by the Hispanic Law Student Association. The event will be held outside across the street at the Fort Worth Water Gardens. Each year, Mr. De los Santos, a Texas Wesleyan Law alum, gives out a scholarship to a student in financial need. Yes, I did apply for the scholarship and any applicant must attend the dinner or forfeit the award. I will definitely be there this Thursday enjoying dinner at the Garden.
I am relieved that home life is filled with less homework and projects for my son, who entered junior high this year. He can actually resume spending time outside with his friends rather than stressing across the table from me. It is weird not having my “study partner” any more, but I feel so much more comforted knowing that he can develop a normal healthy kid life rather than face the angst of a college life.
8/25/10 - First week back as a 2L and I am reveling in the accomplishment. I have found that I am absolutely in love with Constitutional Law and wish I had spent more of my summer consuming myself with the likes of Marshall and Madison. I still don’t feel quite “in my skin” in a classroom of what seems to be one hundred. Honestly I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.
I do feel more at home with my seminar course in Domestic Violence. With only sixteen students, we will have the opportunity to lead discussions in group and even present our final papers. That feels more like the Socratic Method I’m used to, but it’s always good to get accustomed to uncomfortable situations in this field.
Uncomfortable is what my Professional Responsibility professor Judge Kinkeade made me feel when he asked us if we would be able to represent cannibalistic murderers. “No” may be the answer, but of course, there are caveats. I guess someone somewhere has always got to do the dirty job. Criminal defense is a foreign subject to me and I just hope to never have to actually answer that question.
I’m relieved that I’ll also be learning about the Dallas Cowboys in Business Associations. Because the professor realizes that our attention span may fizzle at the hour and a half mark, the Cowboys regularly appear within his PowerPoint presentations. I abhorred the idea of having to take this class, but now I’m sure I can put my worries to rest.
Back at home, the little one has now become taller than me just in time for middle school. We are both hoping that he has less homework this year, especially since I will be working during the week. It’s a sad reality that most law student jobs in the legal field pay very little, so I’ll have to revert back to the education field to make the most of my time. I hope to have a job by next week!
8/4/10 - As the sun sets on the summer break from law school, I begin to celebrate the end of my internship at Safe Haven. I spent the last week at the Wise County courthouse, which seemed to me like the true Old West. I had the chance to sit at the “lawyer table” with my mentor during a final hearing for custody and visitation orders. Not too many people were happy to be in court that day, especially the Respondent in our case. I at least witnessed two happy moments in court: one stepfather formally adopted his stepchildren after being “dad” for more than ten years, and another father gained full custody of his twelve-year old son. In this case, the father refused to pursue any child support he was entitled to. One lasting impression I have from going to court is that judges like to see both parents involved in a child’s life, even if just for a supervised hour over the weekend.
Before the school bell rings once again, I’ve dedicated myself to filling in my calendar with social and cultural events to supplement my law school career. I remember listening to various professors and upper level students about getting rid of the “party” mentality. I think that some degree of release is necessary and if you find yourself bored there are several low-key events at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the Rose Marine Theatre near the law school.
I look forward to seeing all the new 1L’s on campus very soon and to getting reacquainted with old classmates. Don’t hesitate to contact me during the year!
7/21/10 - Now I am getting a little worried about having everything in order to make the most of the fall semester. I continue to read self-help guides for law school and feel only slightly guilty that I have yet to read all the novels on my list. One memoir that I have yet to finish is Lucette Lagnado’s Man in a White Sharkskin Suit, about a Jewish family’s exile from Cairo to New York City set during the Nasser regime. If only I could read it without such guilt.
I have about two more weeks to go until the end of my internship, and I have learned more information than I can contain. I’ve had a chance to get a close-up look at the local process for the U-Visa applications provided to undocumented immigrants who cooperate with the prosecution of certain types of crimes. On one end, the victim must provide substantial evidence that he or she has suffered because of the abuse or crime, and on the other end, the local police or district attorney have their own discretionary power on whether to sign a special certification - a necessary component of the U-Visa application.
Several factors weigh into determining if a client can obtain the necessary certification form for the U-Visa application. I’ve learned that sometimes applications go nowhere at this point, and various police departments within Tarrant County have their own idea of what should be certified.
Although the process for the initial approval of the immigration petitions filed by Safe Haven may take six months to a year, I have had the chance to see several clients receive their work authorization cards. This small wallet card I have come to believe is like the coveted golden ticket - several women weep when we hand it over, and I am sure that for them it will bring the hope and financial independence needed to repair their lives.
7/7/10 - Right about now I’m fantasizing about the number one dish on my list: Poblano Pepper Soup, specially made by the Café Nuevo Restaurant in Corpus Christi, Texas. Yes, if I could call anything intoxicating, it would be this soup. If you have ever seen Like Water for Chocolate (a film based on the book by Laura Esquivel) and crave to experience utter sadness, delight, and ecstasy in one single moment, this would be the food to rattle your senses. I think I’ll try to concoct my own version, now that my son is gone on his month long visitation with dad - and I have the freedom to experiment with food to my palate’s content. By the time he returns he’ll either find me a grand mess of a homemaker and spit out my magic potions, or demand homemade brunch and dinner. I don’t look forward to either reaction, but I can’t wait to tell him he’ll be in charge of dinner twice a week…
Today (Wednesday) I am finally 35. I really do feel like an official grownup now, but appreciate people that treat me and make me feel like a little girl (judges). On the one hand, I realize I have to dye my gray roots every three weeks, but at least I’m able to feel right at home at the courthouse where everyone assumes I’m just another attorney and not just a cutesy little intern.
On to the courthouse…Last week, I assisted my attorney mentor with a divorce prove-up by serving as the official translator in front of the judge. This was not too nerve-wrecking until the judge swore me in - then I was thrown off guard. And then came the questions - for every one word in English, for some reason, it took three to convey the same thing in Spanish. I thought I was doing well, until I realized that I stopped interpreting the word “si” every time the client responded. No, the judge didn’t even notice, I suppose the word si is as American as “guac” and Poblano Pepper Soup…
6/23/10 - I took a vacation from internship life and decided to make a return trip to Austin with my son, wanting to impress him with how quickly I could get into 60 degree cold water. Looks like he decided to leave me behind, and it didn’t help that the water felt cooler during the evening. We also headed out to Lake Travis, where once again, Tony left me behind and decided to swim across a small cove, alone, while I held on to a rock trying to fend off the small freshwater fish nibbling on my legs.
We instantly fell in love with Austin and its springs, rivers , lakes, and trails. On a recent walk along the Trinity Trails here in Fort Worth, I learned that the city has a ten year plan that includes canoeing and kayaking along our little river. I may not end up in Fort Worth but I’m sure it would make the city even more attractive for a much needed study break.
Once I returned to my internship at Safe Haven, I began the week by reading court transcripts of a child custody case argued by a mother and father pro se. The pages read like a true novel, yet I was consumed by the melodrama the next few days and wondered how children could overcome the intense degree of animosity between the two people they love the most. Then, on Tuesday I went to another divorce and custody hearing at the courthouse, less emotionally taxing, but like the last hearing, the defendant failed to show. I also learned how to retrieve and file court documents and took a tour of the lawyer’s lounge. I’ve yet to observe a full blown trial but at least I have time to continue to grow my thick lawyer skin.
6/9/10 - Almost a month after finals and I can say that I have really enjoyed this break! I’ve only received three out of five grades so far and I am so relieved to see improvement! I know it will take twice the effort as a 2L to work at my maximum potential, and hopefully by then my balancing act will have stabilized. After my last final, it took about a week to readjust myself to not spending endless hours devouring my law school books and I even felt completely useless and unproductive with all my free time. But it soon ended…back to taking care of myself, reconnecting to my social life, and living the life of an intern.
After a week of relaxing I began my internship at Safe Haven and quickly got a taste of public interest law by doing a client intake, and attending a divorce hearing at court where I met a few very nice judges. At Safe Haven, I take turns between working with a family law and immigration attorney. Like law school, the fact scenarios of real clients are as complicated and heart-wrenching as our law professors have set them up to be. It is extremely difficult to remain straight-faced during client interviews and this is the time and place where you realize that some political one-liners may have nothing to do with reality. However it will take a while to grow the proverbial “thick skin” that is necessary to survive this area of public interest law (domestic violence).
I also took a quick trip with some friends to Hill Country and Barton Springs in Austin and hope to go back for a family trip tubing down the Guadalupe River. Must get as much fun in this summer before it all comes to a halt in August.
5/19/10 - 1L year has finally come to an end. I’d like to thank you all for tuning in to our blogs, and I hope you have found our journeys helpful.
Everyone wants to know what they can do to prepare. I did hear of a few people who actually read some Horn books the summer before their first year, but I’m not sure how well it worked out for them. The best I had heard, and failed to listen to, was to re-learn basic English grammar (which, depending on your generation, was probably not taught in the whole-language classroom). It is not blog writing, it is not prose, it is not creative writing, not senior thesis writing, and definitely not “but I went to a liberal arts college” writing (none of those gave me any edge). Yes, there were probably two “gold-star” quality students that managed a B on the first try, but chances are, that won’t be you. Try Wydick’s Plain English for Lawyers to give yourself the best chance.
Apply law to facts. That seems basic and simple enough. But when you’re caught up reading cases, outlining and attempting to memorize seemingly impossible nuances of the black letter law, somehow this simple piece of advice gets placed on the backburner. Apply law to facts. This is what supposedly separates the happy law school students from the frazzled ones. It will supposedly land you more A’s and B’s. Apply law to facts. Spend more time applying, and less time memorizing. Most people recommend Fischl and Paul’s Getting to Maybe, to learn the art of the law school exam. For some it will be easier than others, but like everything else, do what you know works for you.
I think most of the memorable moments as a “law-school mom” were those unforeseen ones: Bedtime stories turning into, “can you believe there was once a fellow named McGee, whose hairy and matted hand…”, and my son wondering about the poor Garret child, who maliciously or foolishly slipped a chair out from under an old lady (yes, you will find them poking through your casebooks). And something I’ve heard from other law school moms - you really get a kick out of hearing them forcefully and passionately argue their case for their first-amendment rights, as if being a law student would give you compassion for their unchecked banter. Not bad kiddo, but go to your room…
I’ve really enjoyed being a blogger this year and I will still be available for questions over the summer. I wish you a relaxed summer before you begin the journey to the rest of your life!
5/12/10 - By the time you read this, our IL year will have ended, but since we blog midweek, we remain in the throes of exam angst.
And while I continue to study, I’ll just ramble a few things as I attempt to stay awake. I can’t understand why I love coffee more than ever now, but yet remain far from being a café connoisseur. I know my heart can’t handle energy drinks (it feels like a panic attack!), but I wonder if they make the difference between an A and a B-. What am I not doing now that I will wish I would have done with 3L hindsight (wish I knew the name of that verb tense)?
It’s amazing that even at 34 (that’s not so young, to me at least), I can actually cram a whole semester’s worth of learning in two days, and it’s something I’ll never do again. I plan to prepare at least one month, make that two months, ahead this fall. I see the benefits in being OCD now, and wish genetics would have not passed the procrastinator gene to me. Can I choose to be something so against my nature? Well, ready or not, I’m spending the summer reading novels, and law review articles on Constitutional Law, and I guess Business Associations (ugh).
So I wonder - when I’m swimming in Barton Creek down in Austin, while my once-tan skin is in sun shock, will I come to an epiphany: “Hey why go back to law school?” But once I jump into the cold spring water, I know my social justice senses will once again shock me back into reality.
4/28/10 - Our 1L year is just about done! With classes over earlier this week it is time to seek refuge in our little hermit shells and prepare for exams. For LARW, we had a citation exam on the last day and I couldn’t believe that I had only completed four out of thirteen problems with thirty minutes left for the exam! Alas, I did finish with a little time for review but had it not been for our “Citation Jeopardy” games, I wouldn’t have been able to muster up the speed to complete the test.
I’m spending my days making flashcards, reviewing my outlines and doing practice problems. For the most part, I study about two subjects a day throughout the day. Ten hours a day studying is about average, but anymore than that I really can’t handle. I spend a few hours at school, at Starbucks, and home to vary the rhythm of my study schedule- I can’t sit in the same spot for more than three hours.
I expect better results this semester although I’m really worried about Civil Procedure, which is all multiple choice this semester. Property and Criminal Law at least have an essay component so I feel more secure about those. Contracts will be our first exam next week followed by Property on Thursday. I’m just so glad this study period is built into the semester, otherwise I’d really be out of luck.
4/21/10 - I’ve always heard of Murphy’s Law (no, not my professor), but never encountered it. Alas, it hit me at the worst of times. I hope the following scenario will inspire all you law school hopefuls to prepare and make as many back up plans as you can come up with:
On the morning trial briefs were due, my internet goes offline. I rush over to Central Market, but it seems their system can’t handle a citation check. I walk over to Borders and finally get to work on the final touches, but lose steam after dealing with lost time. Later, oral argument assignments come in, and of course, I land on Tuesday rather than Friday, which put me in the predicament of trying to practice my argument at the same time my son would need help with his science project. Monday night I notice he’s sluggish and become impatient, only to find the next morning that he can hardly talk and his tonsils are swollen.
It’s Tuesday, I have three classes to attend, finals are pending, and my oral argument is at 1:00 PM. Poor Tony has to stay home alone (he’s 12, it’s OK). At noon, my friend delivers lunch because in all of my oral argument angst, I managed to forget a kid with swollen tonsils can’t eat anything but soup! It’s finally time; I’m up for arguments and realize I seriously have to go to the restroom. I’m at the lectern thinking of the sick child at home, wishing to get to the restroom, and wondering if the now late science project will ever get done. And then the moment passes, the seven days of a turned stomach are reduced to 12 minutes of a blackened out moment in life I will never remember!
I realize I’m painting a horror story here, but realistically, after your argument, the judge evaluates your strengths and weaknesses and your classmates clap and cheer you on. I’m just relieved I never have to do that again, at least for now!
4/14/10 - Our oral arguments begin next week and I’m relieved to see that I will play the role of the defendant in this case. Our arguments are based on the trial brief we submitted this week in a breach of contract claim between an apartment complex and former employee. We will present our arguments in one of the school’s appellate court rooms in front of our entire class! That’s not so bad though, because our LARW classes are really small and we’ve come to know each other really well. The downside is, if you don’t have a suit already, this oral argument can be a very expensive five minutes.
I had the privilege of listening to my Contracts professor sing a remake of a Bob Dylan song, to add a little dose of humor to our study of Damages. I’m usually lost when he spontaneously erupts into song during class but I think today I slightly recognized the song.
The Texas Wesleyan Annual Crawfish Boil is this weekend and though I’ve never had the fortune of tasting a crawfish, I think I’ll stop by and see what all the fuss is about. Students pay only $20 for this all you can eat and drink affair - that sounds like a good deal to me, and it’s for a good purpose.
4/7/10 - Another week of take out dinner and piled up dishes as I prepare my trial brief. I was not this nervous last semester about my other writing assignments, but this time most of my angst is focused on trying to perform as well or even better than last semester. It’s hard to imagine that in the last month of the semester, you only have one grade to go on, which will not at all reflect your performance in any other class.
Next Friday, we choose our courses for next semester. Again I’m asking myself whether taking a full course load would be the better option, and yet again I am very unsure. For now I’ll stick to the regular schedule. I think in the end I’ll miss the rhythm of my Section 2 cohort, with all its crazy antics, enlightened discussions, and at times our collective dazed confusion.
Some options to consider: 1L Moot Court competitions are coming up, as well as elections and nominations for the boards of various law student association groups. Realistically, I can’t imagine jumping into anything full force at this point, but do plan on getting more involved with the Wesleyan Immigration Initiative as well as the Fellowship.
3/31/10 - This semester has found me running late to class almost every day. Well, not late, but just before class begins. First semester I spent getting to school at least an hour ahead of time, but this time, I’ve become content with studying all night and snoozing all morning long…
I’m glad I didn’t miss oral arguments today though. The Second Circuit heard oral arguments on a child custody case and a criminal case involving the issue of double jeopardy. I only read the brief for the first case because it’s an issue I can completely relate to. When I read the briefs for the first case, I could distinguish the different tone and persuasive style of the attorneys. It was interesting to see that the attorneys seemed to speak in the same tone and cadence as the way they write. I was hoping that wouldn’t be the case, as we have our own oral arguments to present for our LARW class soon enough.
As our trial briefs and outlines slowly get polished up its time to make our schedules for the fall. We still have required courses such as Constitutional Law and Business Associations and will take the same load of five courses per semester. Of course, most of us will be the last group to register so we may not get the classes we want. I can’t imagine over 160 students trying to register online at the same time but that’s one day I won’t be sleeping in!
3/24/10 - I am now the mother of an official “tweenager,” a feat that reminds me how much time has passed between when I first considered law school, to now when I am confronted with a young man with a voracious appetite in the spring of my 1L year. It took four years for that seed of interest to change into a law school application and now, as the semester is rolling down into the stressful exam angst-ridden stage, I look forward to the accomplishment of calling myself an official 2L. But for now, the reality of exam preparation and writing the trial brief keep me in check, as well as the never-ending cooking reminding me I no longer have a baby boy!
I enjoyed Spring Break and managed my best to both “let loose” and pound away at my outlines for the classes I struggle with the most. I also took time to reflect how the “monotony” of my study, exercise, and domestic routine has become more than a bit stressful lately - mostly because I have never functioned well with a structured and time-pressured routine. Some people thrive in it, but I have found myself emotionally floundering without my social element. I’ve had to deconstruct the supermom and super-student ideal. You can have it both ways only if it makes you happy.
But there are things to look forward to… this summer I will be working at Safe Haven of Tarrant County helping with immigration and family legal services thanks to the Texas Wesleyan Law Fellowship. I’ll also have to make plans to visit and reconnect with alumnae from my undergrad who are in the legal profession.
3/10/10 - The Trinity Trails have offered a nice reprieve from the intensity brewing at this point in the semester. It is slightly over the halfway mark, so now is the time to do all the things I may not have done to the fullest last semester. Intense note-taking, hypos, and essay questions will dominate most of my Spring Break. But this time around, I’m certain that my low intensity workouts and walks along the trails of Fort Worth have managed to keep my spirits high and my brain less rattled.
Spring Break also brings little Tony’s birthday (12 yrs!) and now that he’s too suave for the childhood birthday party, I had no problems spending less cash on a ticket to the Pacquiao v. Clottey fight. But I’m sending him with Grandpa so that I can spend my Saturday, well studying, actually.
And I forgot to mention our latest grand research and writing assignment: our trial brief is due in four weeks, but of course, the labor begins over break. I’m actually looking forward to getting all my studying in order so that the next half is smoother.
I don’t know if it’s a fact of law school life or getting “older” - normal weekend things somehow become elusive and end up on a list of things to do over Spring Break. I will manage to hang the apron and reshelve the books to indulge in a few movies and a new novel (seemingly boring I know), visit my family in Dallas, and catch up with friends over coffee. And if the music is right, I might even dare to fit back into my salsa shoes…
3/3/10 - I finally wrapped up my Law Fellowship application early this week, so now it’s time to await the news about who gets selected. The Texas Wesleyan Law Fellowship provides stipends to students interested in public service careers. I applied to do my fellowship at Safe Haven of Tarrant County, a domestic violence shelter. I hope to assist with family and immigration law. Yes, immigration - several victims of domestic violence are abused by spouses who use the victim’s immigration status to wield power and control against their wives. I feel like this intersection of domestic violence policy, family law and immigration law is just the perfect fit for me. Hopefully, I’ll get positive results for this one; regardless, I’m still planning on interning there this summer. I can really use the routine and rhythm of a nine-to-five day after two semesters of interminable reading and research…
Now for the things about law school that make academic life a little more bearable. Our LARW instructor Professor Murphy merits kudos for being “on-call” during the final week of our memo-ing ordeal. No email was too much, no call went unanswered, and I’m glad he didn’t flinch too much when I overstayed my office visit past five o’clock. Having “open office-hours” throughout the day and answering our emails in the evening is a feat I’m sure that took huge doses of patience (though he never complained). And somewhere in there, he even had time to record and post YouTube videos to make our research process go a little more smoothly. My classmates and I know that we are lucky to have gotten stuck with him this year…That’s just a glimpse into the type of professor you’ll find here at Texas Wesleyan!
2/24/10 – Since the first day of school, I have been appalled at hearing so many students asking about “the exam.” But truthfully, the time to worry is always now. Equally nerve-wrenching was today's presentation on “How to Prepare for the Bar Exam,” offered by Academic Support.
Why worry about something that is two and a half years away? Our entire academic career depends on it, and if we sail through law school taking only the courses we like or those that won't inconvenience our ideal schedule, we may just be shocked to learn that things like Business Associations and Oil & Gas really do matter on the bar exam. I never intended on taking these courses but now I need to find some tangent of interest to tackle the challenge.
On another matter, I finally attended a luncheon sponsored by the Wesleyan Innocence Project honoring exoneree Chris Scott who had been wrongfully convicted of capital murder and sexual assault. After twelve years of pleading his innocence he was finally released in the fall of 2009. Chris Scott was not released based on DNA evidence, however, a review of his case brought to light inconsistent testimony about his guilt and a lie detector test finally confirmed his claim of innocence (the test was not used when he was first convicted). His testimony on faith and perseverance gave me the dose of stamina I needed to keep on pressing on in law school.
Lastly, I'm so relieved that my grey cloud called “memo” is over with! It really put more of a strain on my schedule than last semester; perhaps I put double the effort into this time around. I do have a client letter to write though for LARW and the Wesleyan Law Fellowship application is due soon...All the while I can finally claim that I am caught up with most of my notes and outlines and feel pretty good about what I've learned so far this semester. Now if I can only get my social life back...
2/17/10 – There’s nothing like little miracles to help ease the pain of a difficult week. If you’re not from around here you might not be aware that our weather is a bit finicky and can change at a split-second’s notice. Last week brought us a five-day weekend because the heavens above answered our prayers and brought us record-setting snow. Because we have very understanding and wonderful professors here at Texas Wesleyan, our memos were extended three days to make up for the ever crucial task of getting the chance to meet with them during office hours. This, as many of my classmates have stated, has been a blessing and a curse. With much of the stress of law school reaching a high point, using those extra days to build snowmen or catch up on our social life may not have been a bad idea after all.
Another blessing has been that one of our other professors actually gave us the opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of using laptops in class, and for the first time she permitted us to use them today. I’m not sure what the final verdict will be. The concern is that some students disengage and distract themselves with the Internet, to their own detriment. Most of us are concerned about being able to keep up with writing notes and outlines. Although re-transcribing notes might positively increase our understanding, it may actually cause us to fall significantly behind - time is our biggest enemy here.
I’m really looking forward to getting this memo over with so I can get to other matters such as taxes, fellowship applications, and outlining. Have a great week!
2/10/10 - Last week I met with Career Services to review my resume as I prep for the search for summer internships and fellowships. Before the weekend my “career counselor” revised my resume by cutting it down to just one page and tailoring it as a public interest bargaining tool. It finally looked impressive. Career Services also has plenty of information on local, national and international non-profit and non-government organizations. Most deadlines occur at the beginning of March so most of my time after the memo will be spent on finishing up my applications.
On Monday, I got a nice dose of encouragement and hope after attending a dynamic and engaging presentation by Hector Valle, Assistant District Attorney of the Gang Unit. The Hispanic Law Student Association sponsored Mr. Valle, who is a graduate of UT Law and is related to two of my classmates. It seems his enthusiasm for the law really rubs off. He prosecutes gang members involved in the drug trade and mentioned that nothing like plea-bargaining and the witness stand makes a gang member shred the cloak of loyalty.
I think I previously stated that I expected this semester to be just a little less stressful - at this point I take it all back. Perhaps it's that higher expectations have set in or the realization that in the end, the difference between a B+ and an A- could very well be in the lines of the memo I'm currently writing. I've managed to stay on campus until 6pm every other night and resorted to Central Market's “homemade take-out.” I'm really looking forward to that post-memo feeling.
2/3/10 - At what point do you tell yourself, “What matters isn’t winning but that you were in the game?” It feels a bit surreal to be going through the daily motions of intensive studying when you realize you are not at the top of your class. I’ve heard crazy law school legends about people who rank last, practice law, win one case and retire. One of my professors admitted that in the scheme of things, one semester’s worth of grades and rankings are not that decisive. It’s hard to accept that especially when you see some internships cutting off applicants after a certain ranking. But it does serve as a warning that the coveted “A” is a “constantly moving target,” as one professor put it. I think it will be harder to achieve the highest score this semester given that we know what works now.
I think grades are a great predictor of how you’ll rank relative to the entire class, but for some people it has come as a surprise, or disappointment. I actually feel pretty neutral about my class ranking, but like some of my classmates, the news warrants a different approach to law school life. One of my professors gave me pretty good advice about not dwelling so much on briefing cases and class preparation, but focusing on doing practice problems and learning how to apply the law. In addition, outlines are not the sole determinant of how you’ll perform in class. My grades were best in classes that I made mnemonic maps and “metaphor schemes” (applying a familiar concept, like a classroom within a school within a community, etc. to the rules, rationale and policy in the law).
The good news is that if you’re not in the top 10% there is a greater chance that public interest agencies won’t overlook you. Because of this, I feel a little more at ease with the summer internship hunt.
1/27/10 - Second semester as a 1L seems to bring with it more expectations, shorter deadlines and a whole new slate of worries. For Civil Procedure, our readings have gotten lengthier, or so it seems when you have to read more than twenty pages of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. I also feel the clock ticking for our research memo, which was assigned the first week of class. We actually have different professors for Legal Analysis, Research & Writing class which is now devoted entirely to research methods.
Surprisingly, one of my professors has entirely changed format. Rather than reciting cases in Contracts, we are now presenting arguments as plaintiffs or defendants for hypothetical problems associated with the assigned cases. Last semester I was one of the lucky ones who never got called on in Contracts, but I knew it wouldn't last. We had to present our arguments in two groups of about five people, which wasn't so bad until you realized you had to stand in front of the entire class for an hour and a half. It's a new format that brings with it new challenges. Some of us had issues trying to take notes while merely listening to other students present the pros and cons of a hypo, but our professor acknowledged the difficulty and offered guidance. It's a daunting task, but I hope that presenting these practice problems in such a format will make our final exam a little easier to tackle.
Then there is the new task of trying to figure out what to do this summer. Since I didn't ace first semester (relatively speaking) I figure I will really have to rely on personal leads and connections, and perhaps will end up interning for free this summer. Several places have deadlines in the coming month so it's hard to figure out how to juggle coursework, a job, a child, and of course the research memo. Our Career Services has offered sessions on summer opportunities and they have been really helpful. Now on to making dinner and reading Contracts...
1/20/10 - Our second week back and we already have a new memo assignment due in less than a month. This semester, our memo will be an “open-universe” assignment and will entail research to find relevant cases and statutes that we can apply to our own. I'm trying not to get too excited about researching the use of pot-bellied pigs as a “service animal.” It seems like a strange deviation from what I ever thought I'd ever be researching in law school, but I'm sure somewhere in real life this is a pressing issue.
We finally have all of our grades in and I am pretty much pleased with my final grade for Civil Procedure. It was one of my favorite classes last semester. This time, the focus is on learning the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and our final will be one big multiple choice test rather than an essay question. This will be a challenge since I prefer essay-based exams.
As I'm trying to do things a little differently this semester, I've begun taking advantage of professors' office hours - at this point in the year they are congested with students reviewing their exams. I've also taken full advantage of sites like eBay and Half.com to get extra supplements, since most of our casebooks are just that - full of cases and lacking a clear outline of rules and exceptions. It takes a while though to figure out which supplements work for you and also mirror the professor's style.
1/13/10 - I'm ecstatic about a fresh start to the new semester. It's hard kicking back into gear but I do feel a little less of the weight that came with the first semester in law school. But it's no time to put your feet up and think everything is going to get easier. We received our grades - if I had made all A's I would tell you all about it, but that's not the case. I did the best in Legal Analysis, Research & Writing and Torts and know that I will have to go about things a different way this semester, in order to stay on top of things and not panic so much at the end of the semester.
I really enjoyed “hibernating” during winter break and actually found myself missing the routine of law school. Other than worrying about my grades, I researched scholarship opportunities only to find that many of them had passed me by during exam period! I'll have to get on it as well as think about what I'm going to do this summer. I do plan on applying for the Texas Wesleyan Law Fellowship, a program that sponsors students to work at public interest agencies during the summer.
Just one last thought - I'm quite relieved that I actually made it through the first semester and I'm really thankful for my support “network,” including professors that provided words of comfort and encouragement. In addition, some very successful people talk about winning the “parent lottery” but I must say I really think I won the “kid lottery.” It's nice to have a 12 year-old that has funny remarks about the cases I read and can function on “auto-pilot” without a fuss! He adds such a pleasant tone to the difficult task of law school.
12/16/09 - The end of the semester is finally here, and without the hectic schedule of exams and intense studying, I have found myself almost shocked and even unsettled about having so much free time with seemingly nothing to do. I have reflected back on the semester - considering my exams experience, my single hope for next term is to play the game of “getting ahead,” to never have to deal with the losing game of “catch-up.” It just didn't happen. I felt prepared for most of my exams and feel secure about them. Of course, there is one exam that I'm very worried about. I could have predicted that at least one thing would have to give in my balancing act between school and family life.
Next term I know I have to do things differently, mostly getting help as soon as something doesn't make sense, asking more questions in class, and taking the most advantage of professors' office hours. But most importantly, I plan on getting ahead with outlining, studying and using study aids throughout the semester, rather than waiting the last few weeks before exam time. I really don't know how to rearrange my family life, other than working smarter while at school and not bringing too much studying home that interferes with my son's homework and dinner time.
As you can probably tell, I will start some of my assignments during the break - at least those that our professors post. I’ll buy every study aid I can get my hands on and peruse them lightly, so I can at least go in next semester with the right frame of mind. Other than that I look forward to reading the novel Push (or Precious), trying out some new recipes, and like I mentioned last week, working off the 20 lbs that crept up on me this semester.
12/9/09 - Just one more exam to go and my first semester will be officially on the books! These past two weeks have been filled with non-stop studying, anxiety, stress and everything else you can imagine. I felt really good about my Torts exam, mediocre about Civ Pro but definitely uneasy about Contracts. Tomorrow we have Property, and somewhere along the way I think my brain has just had enough. I really can't wait until this is over! One thing I have learned though is that my Barbri materials really have not helped and Kaplan's PMBR materials have only been slightly helpful. The best thing in hindsight is to review our professor's practice problems, hypos and class notes - which in most cases differ drastically from commercial study materials.
I really do look forward to next semester and I feel the weight of the unknown will finally be off my shoulders and it will go a lot more smoothly. Criminal Law will replace Torts in our schedule and I'm thinking this just may be my favorite class. However, I'm considering whether I should be a part-timer next semester to make family life a little easier. I can't say I'll know for sure until January...
So before New Year's Resolutions begin, I have challenged myself to lose my “1L 20.” I can't believe it happened, but yes I've gained a total of 20 lbs since August! My Larry North Fitness deal wasn't used much during the semester, but I definitely will take advantage of our time off at the gym. I hope that next semester I can manage to balance it all without getting overwhelmed again. I hope you all have a lovely holiday and well-deserved vacation.
11/25/09 - Well it's finally over!!! Monday was our last day of classes but we still have two anxiety-filled weeks of exam prep. I'm busily reworking my outlines, going over class notes, doing practice question drills and trying to memorize some of my “checklists.” Our first exam is Civil Procedure on Monday followed by Contracts on Thursday. I'm relieved that our Civ Pro professor is allowing us to take in one sheet of notes, but I'm so distressed that we will only have ten multiple choice questions and one large essay as well as a short answer essay.
For Contracts we have a multiple choice test with 99 questions and we can use our outline, notes and casebook but considering we only have about one and a half minutes per question, depending solely on the notes just won't cut it. For Torts and Property, we will not be able to bring in anything at all, and I'm very nervous about that. I spend most of the day studying, rotating between home, Starbucks, and Barnes & Noble. I don't like feeling shut in and since my son is gone, I realized that a little noise actually helps me concentrate better. I don't know what else to do to calm my nerves a little...I will be uncontrollably thrilled after our last exam and look forward to venturing out and exploring the city.
Next semester, I look forward to our Criminal Procedure class as we no longer have Torts. We will have three classes on Tuesday which I think will be a little tough, luckily we get our Civ Pro professor in the late afternoon and his energy I hope can keep me focused. On Thursday we will only have one class in the morning and Academic Support during lunch, the rest of the afternoon will be dedicated to outlining. I've really enjoyed our professors this semester and the efforts they put in to providing an engaging, encouraging and helpful atmosphere.
11/18/09 - It's almost over...on Tuesday I turned in my last memo for this semester, and I think studying for finals will be much smoother from here on out. It seems a bit daunting that our grades are curved and I know I have not prepared as much as some of my classmates but at this point all I can do is try to play a smart game of catch-up and hopefully not end up in last place. I'm worried about Thanksgiving, mostly in how offended visiting family members will feel when I tell them I can't spend the entire weekend getting reacquainted. It’s hard to find someone outside the law school circle who understands the quantity of preparation necessary for final exams.
On another note, after I turned in my memo I headed to Dallas to do a small presentation for Programa Unidos on the Baby Moses Law. I was especially nervous after I got there because I had to present in Spanish. Even though I'm fluent, it's a bit intimidating to speak in front of native Colombians, Cubans and people from Mexico City, who mostly speak a more refined tune of Spanish than what I command. In any case, the Baby Moses laws allow parents to hand over their newborns to a Safe Baby Site provided they show no signs of harm and are under sixty days old. No questions asked. The goal of the Baby Moses law is to reduce the unnecessary injuries and deaths of unwanted babies.
Of course, after the program, came the inevitable questions, “I know you're not a lawyer but...” I of course couldn't answer any questions, but it amazed me how conscious and knowledgeable people were about the legal system, especially immigration law - as I learned at that moment, these laws seem to change every other month. The questions got me thinking about future career possibilities in immigration law...
11/11/09 - Red Starbucks coffee cups are in, its dark too soon, and already the city is planning its annual Parade of Lights on November 27. And amidst these nice signals of winter break we seem to have been caught off guard. Just one more week of classes, which means a little less than a week and a half to study for two of our exams. When do you give up adding details to your long outline, how will you commit your short outlines to memory in just two weeks?
This past week has been hard to juggle outlining, studying, practice exams, and class preparation all the while trying to finish up our last memo that counts as 50% of our grade in writing class. I can't say at this point that I'm ready to go, but I have to immerse myself in doing practice questions even if my outlines and checklists aren't finalized. On Tuesday we turn in our final memo and I'm also doing a presentation on the Baby Moses law in Dallas as a volunteer for the Women's Law Student Association. It will be a nice reprieve from staring at the computer screen and outlining.
We'll be done with our exams the first week of December, and I really can't wait to do all the things I wanted to have time to do, like bike riding on the Trinity trails, visiting some of the many old buildings in town, walking along Sundance Square, and finally unpacking the rest of my boxes. I've only seen one movie this entire semester and can't remember the last time I went dancing. It just dawned on me that my phone has not rung in two days, meaning my friends and family have returned the favor of ignoring me. I just hope they answer my calls when all this is over!
11/4/09 - When I submitted my fingerprints yesterday as part of the State Board of Law Examiners background check I became irritated by the ever-present absurdity of filling out a race question. What's worse, it was not an option that one could decide or declare, rather the technician decided it for me as I irreverently marked “O” for other.
I don't agree with the imposition of race based on one culture of “origin.” For me, that would be Spain, or white. And I don't deny that some of my ancestors were Spanish. It is the historical irreverence to the other side of the story, the Indian (indigenous) one that bothers me. Suddenly, I am told I am something I never thought I was. In any case, I had to get my fingerprints if I wanted a future as a lawyer.
I don't have any absolute solution to the absurdities of racial labeling. I understand the labels have critical public policies that rely on them such as Title I funds for public education. I do however wonder what this sense of “historical amnesia” about race will lead to in future government and legal policies.
Situations like these make me rethink where I will stand after law school, and how my passion for history and anthropology can be satiated. What I've never considered (as a law student) are the possibilities to participate in researching how these types of issues have affected the law and court system. Our library website offers a collection of faculty scholarship including articles that focus on racial identity in the Antebellum South, employment discrimination, race, religion and the law. Maybe these articles can provide a little break during exam time...
10/28/09 - Practice exams!!! I still feel largely unprepared, but I have to keep in mind that my worries in no way should reflect my outcome come exam time. I did not take the practice Torts exam last week but will muster up the courage to take Property this week. It is essential to practice, our Academic Advisor warned us. Those who end up on probation are usually the ones who failed to practice. I would like to have most of my outline memorized at this point, but after taking a mini-Torts multiple choice question exam, I realized that by taking sample tests, you can figure out the subtle nuances of how a combination of rules fits into specific but mostly convoluted fact patterns (as happens in real life). Answers will be mostly half true, the best out of two good possibilities or a subtle misapplication of a rule or sub-rule. Because of this I rewrote parts of my outline that were missing key distinctions and detail.
On to better things… Our memo on the Uniform Trade Secrets Act did not end up being such a dry topic after all. I actually enjoyed reading the cases and was relieved to have three extra days to work on it. Our interim assignment is due Friday and we have two weeks from then to complete our final memo. It doesn't sound so daunting, but the process is what's most painstaking, especially when your writing is rigidly constrained by a given structure.
At the end of this week comes Halloween. The last several years I have spent the holiday with friends in a charming little neighborhood called Oak Cliff. On Sunday, I have a family birthday, the kind that extends all day and serves as an excuse for a family mini-reunion. It is hard for me to put my outlines down for the sake of a social life but I figure the brain could use a little toast. I'm sure my friends and family will find me locked up in a room in the futile game of catch-up. Hopefully, they'll understand.
10/21/09 - On to our second memo, practice exams, and five more weeks of class. This week we received our Memo II materials, and I'm not looking forwarding to reading eight cases dealing with the Uniform Trade Secrets Act over the weekend! This is the part of the semester I suppose that leads up to the most stressful point.
Since its National Domestic Violence Awareness month, I attended a session on Domestic Violence sponsored by various student groups. We heard from a previous victim who is now a student here, an immigration attorney and alum from Safe Haven and the Tarrant County prosecutor's office. The immigration attorney explained how undocumented victims of domestic violence can petition for legal status under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Vice-President Joe Biden sponsored the bill, and Congress enacted it in 1994 under Clinton. A more recent provision, the U-Visa, provides temporary legal status to those victims whose abuser is also undocumented. The U-Visa lasts for years and after that, the victim may petition to become a legal permanent resident. Such adjustments of status allow victims to assist with prosecuting those criminally liable for abuse. It's encouraging to see how these professionals feel rewarded in their line of work and are dedicated to ensuring that victims of crimes have access to the available legal remedies.
Home life still has its ups and downs, but I'm in the process of teaching my son to cook a few good entrees. I'm not going to pretend that things have been easy as a single parent - law school is becoming more and more time consuming. At least I can find consolation that one day, I can sleep soundly knowing that I've made someone else's life better by giving them access to the full power of the law.
10/14/09 - Today was the first day I missed class, but it was more worrisome than restful. I thought I'd be able to avoid the cold epidemic plaguing our section, but with too many sick people going to class it was bound to happen. What's even worse is that you slowly start to realize that you've fallen terribly behind on housework...
We turned in our memo yesterday and I can't say that there is a limit to the number of times you need to revise. As I glanced at my second copy after turning in the final one, I realized that my spacing was a little off and that I made a disastrous error on a decedent's (dead guy's) name. I just really hope that the rest of it redeems me considering it counts for 25% of our grade. Next time, I'll allot at least four days for revision!
I will admit that I feel terribly behind and hope this might comfort at least half of my classmates (you're not alone). Luckily I had the chance to hear Professor Epstein's presentation on top exam performance in law school. He's our Contracts casebook author, and besides being witty and charming, he gave us jewels of advice. Since the exam constitutes our only grade in most classes he told us to spend more time on our topic (long) and skeletal (short) outlines than obsessing over the details of our case briefs. Our focus for case briefing should be: 1) why was this case assigned and 2) why now? Simple things to remember, but hard to conclude on our own amidst the stress of keeping up. I feel a little better at least for now.
10/7/09 - It's hard finding a true balance in law school and sometimes you just have to let yourself be very selfish. Our Contracts professor hosted a professional development session that helped put things in perspective. He recounted his days of law school filled with studying and not much else. This is of course impossible - even unhealthy - for single parents like me, but I really think there are ways around that.
Instead of going to all of the school’s wonderful panels and meetings, I've chosen to keep the entire lunch hour just for myself. There are several bar socials around here, but at this point in my life, a cup of Starbucks is more appealing. Studying at home is mostly inconsistent and depends on whether Tony, my son has another research project or math riddle to rattle his brain (and my patience). I didn't expect an eleven year old to have two projects due over the weekend or three hours of homework every night.
I am finding new ways to “create” time. The school's library offers downloadable audio case files so you can listen to and review cases while cooking dinner, commuting, doing laundry, or grocery shopping. That will save me about one hour - even more if I dare to try it in the shower or at the gym. Yes, I joined the Larry North Fitness Club so the audio case files will be on my playlist.
The second part of our legal memorandum is due next week, plus a practice Civil Procedure midterm. Our memo is now ten pages long and we have a new issue to analyze. This weekend I'll just have to run on five hours of sleep and finish everything before noon. The rest of the day must be dedicated to chocolate pancakes, GameStop, and playing basketball.
10/1/09 - If you want to get ahead in law school I suggest going back to grammar school. When you're writing about the facts, rules and holdings in a case, a more concise argument can be made if you write about things in the right tense. So rediscover the subjunctive mood and the past perfect tense. I wish I would have known. Obviously Legal Analysis, Research and Writing class has been a challenge mostly because legal writing is purely informative, exact and not meant to entertain at all. Not that I bombed the legal memorandum assignment, because I didn't, but going from good to great will take some work.
Most of our professors seem to be shifting gears as we near the halfway point of the semester and my nerves are starting to get unsettled. They have explicitly mentioned what type of organized analyses and arguments they'd like to see on our exams. Our Academic Advisor walked us through an exam outline and pre-write for our essay responses. With all this support I'm certain that our professors and advisors are setting us up for success. Still, the pressure is on.
Finding the right balance between home life and school work has been a challenge, not unlike having a full time job. None of that pressure went away but I do enjoy that Fort Worth middle schools don't start class until 9:10 AM! That means two extra hours of much needed sleep for both of us. I had purposefully found an apartment near both Texas Wesleyan and my son's school to save time on our commute. Luckily, he is able to ride the school bus after classes. At this point, when time can make or break you, convenience is a necessity.
9/23/09 - I've never felt anything as anticlimactic as turning in my memo. It was on a Tuesday - had it been due on Friday we could have at least celebrated or even slept in the next day. But classes and work continued as usual, and for some reason it all seemed so much more manageable without the weight of a looming memo deadline...
I finally started having my first law school “nightmares” which so many people warned me about. I think my brain may be trying to find a way to make all this excess information flush out of my ears or something. There I was in the middle of a dream sequence, and instead of following the plot of two strange lovebirds, I attempted to apply the Graves factors to see if they were indeed “closely related,” (this was the issue in our legal memo). Later, I decided to visit a Spa and Sauna to get away from it all only to find myself counting the millions of possible tort liabilities as I crawled into a 108 degree hot tub and got a skin scrub that I'm sure would have left me bleeding had I not screamed in time. I really could not relax and wondered if the Spa were better off with an in-house legal counsel.
Law school does make everything change tremendously. It not only changes the way you look at the world, it changes the course of your conversations and forces you to focus on the most important things that are in your best interest. One of the best pieces of advice I've heard so far is that you must get rid of unimportant relationships to survive as a law school student. For now, I look forward to forming new ones with student organizations, study groups and classmates. 'Til next week!
9/16/09 – Recently I had the chance to attend a meeting for the Innocence Project, a completely student-run endeavor that assists with the exoneration of innocent persons currently incarcerated in Dallas County and throughout Texas. Many of the cases hinge on DNA evidence to prove the innocence of an inmate. Unlike many other cities, Dallas kept all DNA evidence for several years after the cases were considered closed. Because of this, the DNA of prisoners that claim innocence from crimes such as rape can be reevaluated using more precise modern DNA technology. Some inmate case reviews are based on testimonial evidence and investigated by members of group who are private investigators. I've heard of this project numerous times on television but never knew that actual Texas Wesleyan Law students were doing much of the behind the scenes investigative and legal work (since other people I suppose robbed the spotlight).
The group began about five years ago by students and is currently sponsored by an area lawyer and Assoc. Dean and Professor Aric Short. 1Ls are encouraged to become members and will have the opportunity to shadow teams working on legal memos for upcoming cases. 1L students are limited from further participation because of first-year demands, but once you're a 2L you can actually participate by handling the files and writing up the legal memos. The school also hosts presentations by inmates exonerated through the Project. Recently, Patrick Waller, the 18th person to be exonerated by Dallas County, met with students and staff during a luncheon hosted by the Innocence Project. You can see his story on the school's website. The vision of this group really puts your legal education into perspective. Another reason why I'm so glad I chose Texas Wesleyan Law!
9/9/09 - It's officially MEMO time! Four weeks into law school and our first major assignment is soon due! A memo is an analysis of a client's facts using similar cases that helps determine the probability of having a successful outcome for the client. For this memo we have a fictional client, but are using two actual cases for our analysis. Memos have a given structure using a legal framework, and even if you're a published author, nothing will give you an edge. I've taken to reading our MOUS (Manual on Usage and Style) in my spare time. I remember turning in the first mini-memo swearing there was nothing more left to fix but as we all found out, our old grammar rules no longer apply...
Meanwhile, I've tried a few different things to tackle the volume of notetaking in class. Whether you handwrite notes or type them can depend on the content and professor. Our Civil Procedure professor posts his slide presentations on the schools TWEN site, so I like to pull that up during class and handwrite notes instead. I've also put most of the statutes we have studied on colored notecards so I can easily use them as reference instead of flipping through the book or my notes. Civ Pro also requires a lot of diagramming for hypos, so I put my sketches on notecards along with the relevant case names. But I definitely wouldn't do this for Professor Gillmer's Torts class – instead I list cases and the applicable rules or tests on cards and place them into categories like circumstantial evidence or res ipsa loquitor. I figure the next time he refers to something 20 cases ago I can actually remember. Since I'm more of a visual and kinesthetic learner, this notecard system seems to be working pretty well.
9/2/09 – Almost done with the second week of law school and nothing felt as good as the end of that first week!!! This Labor Day weekend my sisters and mom are coming over for brunch and a walk through the Botanical Gardens. Then on Sunday evening, I'm heading back to Dallas for an old-fashioned carne asada with friends. I will also be on vacation from being a mother (thank God for visitation rights) so I'll spend the rest of the time studying around the clock. An extra day of no classes means an extra day of study time.
The first few weeks haven't gone the way I had planned. Many things I couldn't anticipate, such as being unable to stay up late like I used to in my twenties and getting up without feeling like a total wreck. I tried to reduce dinner to prepared frozen meals and take out – disaster! Energy just can't come package-wrapped like that. And suddenly I have a growing 11-year old who eats twice the portions I do and still wants more. So I've taken the advice of a few classmates and decided to sleep at 9 PM and wake up at 5 AM. Even though that's the same total of 8 hours sleep, the energy level is significantly different. A wide awake and rested brain works twice as fast...it's worked so far for me.
8/26/09 – How hard could it be? I've heard several of us lamenting how we slept in, skipped class, hardly read, etc. and still managed to get that 3.9 GPA as undergrads. Some of us have even handled our own legal affairs pro se. After just one week, we've discovered that none of that past experience will brief our cases any faster for us. I did expect this to be extremely time consuming, but never imagined I'd have to have an entire caseload of torts, property, and jurisdiction cases in my head and have the ability to recall the salient issues, reasonings, and facts just like that.
At the end of our first week, there was an audible sigh of relief as our last professor finished for the day. We relished the idea of sleeping in, having normal conversations, not fretting over picking highlighter colors for book briefing. I really tried to calculate how much work that one week would have equaled in undergrad – maybe about a month and a half, no matter where you went. Law school really kicks you into discipline, procrastinator or not.
A little about me. Well, all of you know my age now - for some reason I was paranoid about it. It has something to do with being thirty-something and drastically changing the course of a decade invested into life and its little earthquakes. I have a small family that includes my cutie pie Tony, who is eleven going on sixteen, and is quickly morphing into a stranger creature than I am as a law student. I spent eight years as a teacher (great prep for law school, especially when it comes to organization and volume of work) and now I work part-time handling a crisis hotline for a women's domestic violence shelter. I recently relocated from Dallas and I am wondering why I didn't find Fort Worth any sooner! I have no intent to go back! Never. Nunca.
I look forward to writing about the other side of law school - my life - including exploring the city, managing dinner (quick and easy meals), dealing with children, and learning how to budget. I am open to any responses, questions, observations, or suggestions.